BEYOND THE BROWSERS in the New Age Shop in Central, is a backdoor with a sign saying, 'Session in Progress!'. Despite this sign's 'Do Not Disturb' tone, I am shown into the room to find holistic therapist and metaphysics disciple Frederick Stander pouring a visiting psychic a cup of tea and casting a spell of sorts. Stander is waving his magic wand, a gold, marker-sized device called a beamer containing compressed gases, over a customer's mug to 'charge' the tea. She sips it and quickly replies, 'It's affecting my crown chakra [at the top of the head - one of the seven centres of spiritual energy in the human body, according to yoga philosophy]. For the better, oh yes, for the better.' I feel grossly out of the loop, like a witness to children who are playing with imaginary friends. But if judgment and disbelief can be suspended, 49-year-old Stander, with his shoulder-length white hair and beard, could be a graduate - Merlin-cum-laude - of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter novels. To some, Stander is Hong Kong's Deepak Chopra, minus the American spiritual healer's self-promotion. But to those who denounce the esoteric New-Age realm and the likes of crystal healing and aura balancing, Stander, and his 38-year-old wife, Yvonne, a fellow energy healer, say they can provide hard evidence of their abilities - to help heal Aids patients. They volunteered to work with Aids and HIV sufferers in the United States and Taiwan, with results documented by a Taipei hospital. They now want to serve Hong Kong's Aids community. The Standers have contacted Aids Concern, one of Hong Kong's three largest non-governmental organisations providing support to Aids sufferers, but 'they weren't that responsive', says Frederick. 'The same thing happened with some groups in Singapore.' Aids Concern executive director Graham Smith says: 'We opened an alternative therapy room seven years ago and closed it because nobody ever used it. We've had several phone calls over the years from people, often from the mainland, 'selling the cure'. I ask, 'What was your experience with the patients?' and it turns out they all died. In these cases I proceed with extreme caution.' Smith founded Aids Concern 11 years ago, at a time when research and treatment of the degenerative disease was lagging and when alternative therapies were more actively pursued. 'In the early days the spiritual approach had the upper hand as [first-generation drug] AZT was extremely toxic and people were desperate to try other things,' he says. 'But now there's been a significant improvement in Western medicine such that the role of alternative therapy has shifted from providing a miracle cure to managing the toxicity of the drugs.' Smith says HIV-positive people in Hong Kong fear the stigma attached to the virus and, as a result, are fiercely secretive about their ailment. 'Disclosure is their No 1 concern and our problem is that we operate on the principle of client self-determination,' he says. 'We're an intermediary so we can't put the healers in front of people. They've got to request it. I've got nothing against alternative therapy if it's not dangerous. I encourage people to pursue what is within their belief frame.' The Standers' journey towards helping Aids patients began when they met nine years ago in the book section of the New Age Shop (disregarding, that is, their self-confessed past-life relationship). Yvonne had travelled to Hong Kong from her home in Taipei to pick up a book (Seth, by Jane Roberts). Frederick moved to Lamma Island from Cape Town in 1984. He worked as an English teacher until 1990 when he became one of the first employees of the newly opened New Age Shop in 1990. Both vegans and New Age disciples, 'we were living synchronised lives', says Yvonne. They recognised their destiny; Yvonne sold her home and car, moved to Hong Kong and they married shortly thereafter. Both were pursuing Buddhism and alternative therapies and decided to train for two years under a Chinese guru at his healing centre in northern China (they fear that revealing his identity could endanger him in the light of Beijing's prosecution of spiritual leaders and Falun Gong). They studied an ancient Chinese healing practice, code symbols, which was performed by Taoist and the barefoot doctors of old. Code symbols are a compilation of Chinese characters that supposedly connect the universe and human consciousness and can be transferred by a healer to a patient, either telepathically or, as barefoot doctors often did, by 'writing' the symbols in a person's 'energy field' or on the ground at their feet. The basis of homeopathy is that like cures like - as Frederick says, adding, 'the disease is the cure'. 'We believe that if a person can see their way through Aids without guilt or too much fear, they will Veteran General Hospital in Taipei to apply his alternative therapy to a pilot group of 12 volunteers. For eight weeks, the Aids sufferers spent two to three hours an evening at a Buddhist sanctuary in Taipei. In a typical session, the Standers would touch the body's 'acupoints' and chakras, then telepathically transfer the ancient code symbols. 'The vibration of the code symbols awakens the DNA and activate the life force', which is often referred to as chi or prana, says Stander. The sessions also included a form of counselling or sharing, 'their feelings on life in general, their frustrations, being gay, all these things', he says. The volunteers were monitored by the hospital and blood tests were conducted monthly for six months but the results of the Stander's efforts were evident in only two weeks. 'After the therapy, almost all of them were better than before,' says Jenny Su Yiet-ling, nursing department supervisor of Veterans General Hospital, who oversaw the project. Though Su says she is still processing all the data, based on the two main indicators of an Aids patient's health - viral load count and T-cell count - the results were striking . Yvonne says the viral load - the amount of the Aids virus in the bloodstream - was undetectable at the end of the six-month monitoring period. 'So from an allopathic point of view they were cured,' says Yvonne. 'But we don't use that word because it might be disturbing to some people. We call it healing and emphasise how much better they feel.' Stander shares the philosophy he employed with the volunteers. 'It doesn't matter how long you live, what good is 100 bloody years if you can have 30 or 40 good ones?' he says. 'It's quality not quantity and most of them radically changed their lives.' One patient, resentful of the pressure of running his own graphic-design company, sold it. 'They started to love themselves and get in tune with themselves,' he says. Shortly after the eight-week trial, the Taipei hospital was invited to present its findings at the Global Medicine Conference at the University of California Santa Barbara in May last year. The Standers went along and spent three months in California, performing their service wherever it was requested, from hospitals in Los Angeles, to rural towns. 'It was interesting how it took off,' says Frederick. 'It was all spontaneous.' One day in particular took on biblical proportions, when, in the small town of Ojai, east of Santa Barbara, 100 people lined up, hoping to be cured of illness ranging from hepatitis C to clinical depression. At one California clinic, Yvonne says she treated a man with HIV whose toe was infected. When he returned for treatment the following evening, the toe was healed, she says. Despite their professed successes, they also encountered resistance from the medical establishment. One doctor in Los Angeles hospital allegedly told Yvonne: 'If you have an alternative cure for HIV we'll lose our jobs.' And though the Veterans General Hospital's programme was lauded at the conference, says Su, it has been discontinued due to lack of funding. The Buddhist foundation, where the classes were conducted, is no longer offering its space for free and Su has not been able to convince the government-run hospital to allocate resources. Because of their Buddhist teachings, the Standers say they can offer their services only passively in Hong Kong. 'If we do anything more it become manipulative,' says Frederick. Says Yvonne: 'We're doing it quietly [for free] for those who want it.' Stander moved to Lamma Island from Cape Town in 1984. He worked as an English teacher until 1990 when he became one of the first employees of the newly opened New Age Shop in 1990. From serving customers behind the till, he now he offers private consultations at $600 an hour. He has quietly built up a loyal following - from barristers to bohemians. Stander's New-Age skills includes aura-chakra balancing, crystal therapy and divine healing, palm and face reading, reiki reflex zone therapy and tui-na acupressure, which is the use of flower essences with biomagnets. The Standers can be contacted via the New Age Shop (tel: 2810-8694), where they are currently offer their services, 'psychic counselling and multi-dimensional cellular healing' by Frederick, and 'sound healing and esoteric acupoint activation' by Yvonne.