- Is energy healing real?
- The game of suspending belief
- Skeptical observable outcomes
- Suspended disbelief
- Scientific evidence for energy healing:
- 1. Acupuncture
- 2. Research into Prana
- Is Energy Healing Real in the Case of Prana?
- Is energy healing real when it is electromagnetic?
- What about quantum physics?
- So now WTF? Is energy healing real or not???
Is energy healing real?
So is energy healing real? Sometimes with my work, I feel quite skeptical. I doubt the theories that explain it all. I feel sure of chakras and meridians. Because I am used to feeling and manipulating them. In general, however, I always suspend disbelief of new information, until I have a personal feel for its veracity.
Suspending disbelief is about neither believing nor disbelieving. It is about working with the technique or concept as both potentially true and potentially untrue. And this is very very useful. Because we are often unsure in this field. There is so much that is a mystery. Unfamiliar. Taken on faith or optimism.
The game of suspending belief
I spent my impressionable teen years devouring stack of New Scientist magazines. And trying to keep up with them. So I have an inner imaginary scientist self. Is energy healing real? New Scientist says, “Fiddlesticks!” It puts the matter in the Feedback section:
Sometimes my inner sceptic likes to pretend that energy healing is totally unreal. As a kind of thought experiment. And then see if it works, even in this contrarian imaginary experience. My inner sceptic especially likes to show up during group processes and workshops. Everyone is nodding along in agreement. As usual. Because us healers are, in general, highly agreeable folk. They are perfectly able to believe in seven impossible things before breakfast.
So let’s pretend. All assessments and actions on the human energy field, and all our tools and techniques, are placebo effects. Just for a moment. And let’s watch the proceedings.
Skeptical observable outcomes
Our healers are happily healing themselves and one another. They are placeboing their symptoms away. They are placeboing pain. Emotional and physical anguish. Their symptoms are being alleviated. Some claim their spines are straightening. Others measure proportions carefully to confirm this. Faces are clearing and brightening. Tears of joy and relief are being shed. Everyone is getting amazing insights. Changing their lives for the better. Glowing with goodness and the beauty of a pure heart. Even my scientific alter-ego can see that.
One thing is true. Healers are generally extremely nice people. My scientist secretly notes a few logical fallacies. False hypotheses. Leaps of faith. She holds her tongue.
The workshop is absolutely wonderful. Energy healing works. Even if it is not real. My inner sceptic breathes a silent prayer of thanks. Even though she thinks she is an atheist. She decides she is willing to learn. And to practice in a state of suspended belief. It is irresistible!
I have written another blog. About how you can answer the question, “Is energy healing real or not” by experimenting with your hands. And sensing your own energy field. So we are not going into the evidence of personal experience here.
I will say that you can build up as much personal experience as you need to convince yourself.
Anyone can learn to feel the human energy field. And to work with it. Most people can feel a ball of energy between their hands immediately. Apparently learning to feel meridian energy may take years of practice for some. Personally, I could feel strong meridian flow as soon as my attention had been drawn to the sensation of excess chi. Deficient chi is much more difficult to sense. And more strenuous to work with.
Scientific evidence for energy healing:
There are many kinds of energy healing. We will start with looking for evidence of the most concrete, embodied form of energy healing. So we start by looking at acupuncture. And related disciplines such as acupressure, shiatsu, Tui Na, electro-acupuncture, Chi Gong and so on. These all work with the same energy flows. The flow of Chi through the body and the meridians.
There are two kinds of evidence.
- Evidence of efficacy. Without any explanation of how this is so. Or with speculation and wonder, but no direct measurement of a mechanism
- Measurable flow of energy between practitioner and client. Or within the biofield of the subject.
Is energy healing real if it is done with acupuncture and pressure points?
There is a gaping hole in mainstream scientific literature where there should be a certain answer. “Yes! Energy Healing is really real!“to the question: Is energy healing real?
This is not because there is no evidence. It is also not because there is a lack of scientific literature. Additionally, it is not because the evidence is unclear or ambiguous. So why is energy healing still called a pseudoscience in mainstream literature?
The actual research into acupuncture
Chinese scientists are very proud of their national healing art. Acupuncture and meridian therapy.
According to another meta analysis, 13320 scientific articles about either the efficacy or about possible measurable mechanisms of acupuncture were published in 20 years. citation
Nearly 2 scientific papers a day, including weekends.
Acupuncture meridians are standardly and reliably measured in micro-amperes, which are extremely small. Millionths of amps.
So acupuncture is pretty soundly researched. Measured. Validated. And used as a therapeutic tools by means of manual stimulation, needles and electro-acupuncture.
Basically done and dusted. For anyone who cares to actually look into the question “Is Chi-based energy healing real?”, the answer has to be yes.
Are we really measuring Chi?
Is the flow of meridian energy really electro-magnetic in nature? We can measure an electromagnetic charge that flows through the meridians. The means that answer has to be, “Yes. Partially.”
Why I don’t believe that Chi is really electro-magnetic
Chi itself flows quite slowly through the body. Think of a slightly pressurized fluid that varies in viscosity. Sometimes it feels thin and quick, like water. At other times it feels more like a slow treacle. It may pulsate. Or throb. When you move Chi using pressure points, you can feel it flowing. Along the long bones of the body, for example. From one place to another. Flowing slower through the joints. And Chi rushes from areas of high Chi to low Chi as soon as you unblock the flow. You frequently need to wait a while for the chi to finish flowing. Often, you can’t continue to apply pressure for such a long time. You need to coax the Chi along. Otherwise you may bruise your client, before the chi is in balance.
I do not think that this flow is really measured in micro-amps. Because Chi is slow. And electricity flows fast.
Obviously, the practitioner is sensing the pain of the client. Their emotional state. The overall presence and energetic signature of the person. So there is a lot more going on. Indeed, Chi is described as intimately connected with all this.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Chi has different qualities. Wind. Cold. Heat. Damp. Stagnation. Yin or yang qualities and more. So definitely, there is a lot more to meridian energy than merely electro-magnetic energy.
What about biophotons?
There have been some very interesting measurements of the emission of light by living tissues. These emissions are called biophotons. They are extremely weak. While Reiki is correlated with an increase in biophotons, oxidative stress is too. Biophotons are fascinating.
However, I do not believe that the emission of biophotons correlates strongly with energy healing. Firstly, Reiki is effective even at a distance. Secondly, if biophotons increase with oxidative stress and damage, surely they cannot really be causally connected with healing. Variations in Biophoton emissions can be measured in different meridians. However this is not enough.
Healing with Chi is contact-based energy healing. It involves contact with the physical body. Yes, you can work with the meridians at a distance. But this is really a kind of Pranic healing that is working with a meridian or meridian point. You are influencing Chi, but you are not using Chi.
2. Research into Prana
Is Chi the same thing as Prana? Both are described as the life force of living beings. Many people believe they are the same thing. I do not, although I am sure they interact and are related in some ways.
The reasons why I think Prana is very different to Chi are:
- Chi and Prana feel very different. Both in the self and in others. Prana moves faster. It is more mercurial. Prana does not travel within the meridians and through the joints of the body in the same way. It feels more like a cone or forcefield of energy than like a channel.
- Prana also extends far beyond the confines of the physical body. It acts on broad areas of the body. For example the heart chakra will pull or push the whole chest, shoulders and arms inward or outward depending on its flow.
- Prana responds instantly to thoughts, attitudes and emotions. Chi does not. Well – there are exceptions. I once worked on someone who had almost fallen off a ladder. His Chi was still dramatically over-energizing one half of his body several hours later. Specifically the leg that had prevented his fall. He had to shift his weight to one side to avoid falling from a dangerous height. So his Chi shifted with his struggle not to fall.
The flow of Prana is through different channels to Chi. There is a meridian point at the point of intersection of each chakra in the body. Front and back. Yet Prana flows through 3 channels:
The three channels of Prana
- The central channel. When Kundalini rises, it does so through this channel. The energy of a Kundalini awakening is very powerful. If Chi is like a gentle stream, Kundalini rising is like the Niagara Falls. It feels intensely different to Chi. And is immediately responsive to both thoughts and emotions.
2. The Nadis. There are two major Nadis that flow like the snakes in the Caduceus symbol. They are named after the sun and the moon. Masculine and feminine. They are on the right and the left. Connecting and crossing over the middle. The nadis also radiate through the whole body in 72000 channels.
3. The chakras. These are vortices of energy. They direct energy from the outside to the inside. And from the inside to the outside. So we receive and also radiate energy through the chakras. The chakras radiate outwards through the subtle bodies.
They too can respond immediately to thoughts and emotions. Usually they follow general patterns. These patterns follow the general habits of thought. And the way the person relates to the world in the medium to long term. They are wider than they look in the diagram here.
Is Energy Healing Real in the Case of Prana?
We can conclude that energy healing is real when we are talking about Chi. Because science shows firstly, that it works. Secondly that it correlates to some degree with measurable energy. In the form of micro-amperes.
But is energy healing real when we are talking about Prana, chakras and subtle bodies?
This is more tricky.
For me, in my personal direct experience of reality, and of energy healing, the answer is “Yes, of course!” But the science is far more shaky.
Let’s start by unpacking what energy healing with Prana includes and does not include.
Does working with Prana include working with non-localized healing?
A quick browse of the opinions of various scholars of Veda, Yoga and Pranayama gives me a general “Yes”. Why? Because Prana is the energy of life force. And life is consciousness.
Consciousness animates and gives rise to matter. That is why the world of the Soul and Brahmin is part of the Causal realm. The origin of causation. And what about the problem of non-dualism etc? This also implies that healing is a form of the ‘supernatural’. It is a friend and relation of pre-cognition. Remote viewing. Telepathy. Religious and psychic phenomena in general. I think this is actually true. Healing, religion, miracles, mysticism and intuition all deeply intertwine.
Let’s not go into the philosophy here. It is a huge topic. So if we start, we may never reach the end.
Let’s start with the strong side of the problem: Research into the efficacy of energy healing.
Does Energy Healing work when you send Prana, rather than Chi?
For this answer, we cannot go through hundreds or thousands of research papers over several decades. Instead, we can turn to meta-analyses.
What is a meta analysis?
Meta-analyses are research papers. They look at the combined data of other research papers. They study whether the evidence combines to give a yes or a no. Meta-analyses are all about statistics, probabilities and sweeping overviews.
Measuring something as interpersonal and subjective as energy healing is super tricky. How do you prevent the powerful placebo effect? How do you know nobody is praying for your controls? Sending healing to the people or other living beings that should be the controls in your experiment. The controls should not be receiving healing.
Is the healing sent by a skilled practitioner or by Joe Soap? Is the recipient already part of a faith/. And therefore resilient already? Are your ‘fake healers’, who are supposed to only pretend to send healing, accidentally feeling compassion? Compassion alone is incredibly powerful in healing…
It is really complex. And quite overwhelming to consider all of these pitfalls.
Meta-analyses: Is energy healing real when it is non-contact?
Nonetheless, numerous meta-analyses have found significant results. Not all meta-analyses found positive results. But there is considerable evidence that prana-based energy healing does in fact work.
So is energy healing real? Evidence-based scientific research actually seems to confirm that it is.
“These results suggest that subjects in the active condition exhibit a significant improvement in wellbeing relative to control subjects. Under circumstances that do not seem to be susceptible to placebo and expectancy effects.”
“Approximately eight systematic or meta-analyses of studies involving healing intentions and prayer have been published in peer-reviewed journals. All but one arrived at positive conclusions.”
https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/40014 (published in 2012)
“Reiki was observed to be an effective complementary application in decreasing the pain level. “
“Results: A total of N=1411 Reiki sessions were conducted and included in the analysis. Statistically significant improvements were observed for all outcome measures. Including positive affect. Negative affect. Pain. Drowsiness. Tiredness. Nausea. Appetite. Shortness of breath. Anxiety. Depression. And overall well-being. (all p-values <0.001) Conclusions: The results from this large-scale multisite effectiveness trial suggest that a single session of Reiki improves multiple variables related to physical and psychological health.”
2019 Harvard study Not a meta-analysis, but a large-scale study
So is energy healing real if measured as a cause of healing?
The answer appears, on the whole, to be that “Yes. It is.”
Can we measure the energy?
To be frank, I expect that my answer is going to be no. But let’s see where the evidence leads us.
We have looked at both micro-amperes and at biophotons. They are interesting measurements of the human energy field, but they are not sufficiently correlated with energy healing. They don’t count as adequate measurements of what is going on in the human energy field, when giving, receiving or experiencing energy healing.
I am not going to go into Kirlian photography. The beautiful coronas that you see in Kirlian photographs are linked to moisture on the plates. Not energy fields.
For decades, healers pinned their hopes on this technology. They hoped they could explain and show consciousness directing matter.
They hoped to answer the question” Is energy healing real?” using Kirlian photography.
A magnetic field that can be measured around living beings. Could this possibly correlate with Prana?
This would also correlate with the sensation of a forcefield that one gets when working with the human energy field. And with the sensation that it radiates outward from the body. It also seems to match with the idea of the chakras as spinning vortices that flip direction and polarity.
So let’s take a look at the magnetic field around the human body and see if it measures up.
How is the magnetic human energy field measured?
Summary based on a Reiki.org article.
In 1963. Gerhard Baule and Richard McFee of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Syracuse University, Syracuse, measured the tiny magnetic field around living beings. The heart and the brain both emit a measurable field which responds to thoughts and emotions.
In 1970, using the SQUID manometer, David Cohen of MIT, confirmed the heart measurements.
So mainstream medicine now measures the magnetic fields around the brain using magnetoencephalograms. They do this to measure the change in the field depending on thoughts, emotions and electrical activity within the brain, such as during epilepsy. Remember that all electrical fields generate magnetic fields. And all magnetic fields generate electricity.
Are we really measuring the human energy field that is affected by energy healing?
Before we even move onto the heart field, when I look up the field around the brain, I see red flags for why this magnetic field is not a good measure for the human energy field. According to scholarpedia, the field is so weak that you can only measure it in a shielded room. The magnetic field of a car two kilometers away would drown it out. This is not the case with the Pranic human energy field that we healers work with so often and easily. You can easily feel the Pranic field between your hands, and around the head of another person too. And easily manipulate it to relieve a headache. Which many or most people can also feel in the Pranic field with a bit of training and practice.
Magnetic fields are theoretically infinite. Remember that a lot of energy healing and reading the human energy field is non-local. However, the magnetic field diminishes with distance. Exponentially.
Yes there is a difference between energy healing when you can work directly on the body or at a distance. But it is qualitative not quantitative. Some of the energy does not change at all with distance. This is the Pranic component. And some is not directly available – part of the chi is simply not available. The body-to body communication of direct touch and pressure. Distance weakens the dance of social connection, which is also a kind of healing.
Is energy healing real when it is electromagnetic?
If you look at the diagram above, you can see that some aspect of energy healing may well be electromagnetic in nature. You can measure EM energy. Sometimes it correlates with what is actually happening.
But correlation is not sufficient to show causation. It doesn’t make proper sense.
I think that energy healing and the human energy field are not electromagnetic in nature. Instead, they influence the electro-magnetic field. So the EM field is an effect. Not a cause. You can stimulate the meridians manually with pressure, needles or electricity applied to meridian points. But neither Chi nor Prana are primarily electromagnetic energies.
What about quantum physics?
As a scientifically minded youngster with a fascination for mysticism, I spent many many hours thinking about quantum physics and looking for a theoretical union between science and the paranormal. There are definitely intriguing correlations and possibilities.
Matter = energy slowed down.
That goes nicely with the mystical view that matter is simply a denser form of consciousness.
But information clearly travels much faster than the speed of light, because of the problem of non-locality. And that idea seems to run contrary doesn’t it? Or is all information actually made of light? And travels through the galaxy at light speed? 299 792 458 m / s. Faster than we can imagine, and so slow relative to the size of space.
And there is the fascinating problem of quantum entanglement, in which two particles link together causally. No matter how far apart they are in space.
This agrees with the non-locality aspect of Prana. But is it the same thing? There does not seem to be any evidence that it is. Is quantum entanglement really prevalent enough to explain the interconnectedness of consciousness? Which is so embedded into reality. It is a question worth investigating.
Why does quantum physics seem like such a good match?
The marvelous paradoxically of quantum physics matches the paradoxically of mysticism. It’s ambiguity. It’s inconceivability.
The way that quantum physics stretches the mind into accepting what our brains feel is impossible. The elasticity of space-time. The event-horizons of black holes. Dark matter. The singularity of the Big Bang. The mystery and upheaval of it all.
This speaks deeply to those of use who are fascinated by the mystery of energy healing. Yet who also hope to belong to science. One day, at last.
I feel like we are still barking up the wrong tree. The mirage is going to move further down the road. This is yet another red herring in a haystack.
Every second healer claims that what we are doing is in accordance with quantum physics. It feels like a wish rather than a reality. And this makes it feel inauthentic.
But all is not yet lost. David Bohm’s implicate order comes closest to uniting quantum physics with an explanation of consciousness. And you can see that Rupert Sheldrake has built on his idea of the holonomic brain. At least he is working with what actually seems to be going on, rather than what he wishes is going on.
There is still hope that some understanding of energy healing will come from existing theories in physics.
So now WTF? Is energy healing real or not???
Well yes. Of course it is real. It works. We can feel it. It changes lives. You can work with it reliably and consistently. Both in person and with online healing sessions.
We just can’t measure it or explain it scientifically.
We understand it well as an aspect of consciousness
Not as an aspect of material reality or of physics.
I suspect that scientific understanding will follow the next revolution in physics. Or perhaps a few more quantum leaps in our sense of reality after that. Sooner or later, we will know rationally and collectively as well as intuitively and personally.
In the meantime, my feeling is that we should have faith in our own experiences, suspend disbelief, and get on with our trade of helping people. We don’t need to prove ourselves to science to do that.
I recently discovered the Archives of the Impossible which is a rich resource of wonder and investigation. I recommend finding them on YouTube and on Google. Here are two brilliant quotes lifted directly from their home page:
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