Aspects of Spiritual Healing
Aspects of Spiritual Healing and the Spiritualization of Matter ~ Part One
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of 2
In our reductionistic Western world we are taught that reality is “objective.” We are led to believe that there is a constancy to the world and that it is consistently measurable by reliable scientific instruments. I will address these beliefs from the perspective of more than a dozen years of research in psi healing (commonly termed spiritual, mental, faith, shamanistic, bioenergetic, subtle energy, vibrational, psychic, divine, unconventional or paranormal healing).
First, let me define what I mean by psi healing and add a few words about the obvious confusion in terminology, a clear indication that there has been a lack of clarity in considering these phenomena.
Psi healing is the intentional influence of one or more people upon one or more living systems without utilizing known physical means of intervention. It is commonly practiced in two major ways: 1. With a laying-on of hands – the hands lightly touching or held near to the body, often combined with visualizations; and 2. With meditation, prayer, or other focused intent, again often combined with visualizations. The two are often used simultaneously. I shall use the term healing to mean psi healing, not to be confused with physiological process of healing.
Lawrence LeShan pioneered the investigation of healing, and laid the groundwork for scientific approaches to the study of healing. He points out that a common denominator amongst healers is the visualization of the healer being “one with” the healee and with the “All.” His book, The Medium, the Mystic and the Physicist is highly recommended for a discussion of the second type of healing. Dolores Krieger pioneered the application of laying-on of hands healing, and her books on Therapeutic Touch are also highly recommended. My own books, Healing Research, Volumes I – IV, consider these matters through the eyes of research.
I mention all of these because healing is, above all, an individual and subjective phenomenon. It is from the realms of experience we label noetic or ineffable. This means that we can know aspects of healing through inner awarenesses that are clearly perceptible but very difficult to describe in words. This is especially true in Western society, where our language is heavily biased towards the material aspects of experience. From that vantage point, we are led to believe that whatever is not perceivable by the outer senses and measurable with mechanical, electromagnetic or particle physics instruments is considered “non”sense or “im”material.
I shall return to some of these difficulties following further descriptions of what healing is – from clinical and research perspectives.
My personal introduction to healing illustrates the difficulties a Western person can experience in learning about healing. As a medically trained doctor with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and specialty training in psychiatry, plus research experience, I was most skeptical about healing. I had years of study, omnivorous reading and clinical experience in how people can innocently and unconsciously misguide themselves into believing nearly anything – about themselves and each other. When Walter, a new-found friend, asked my opinion about healing in 1980, I told him in no uncertain terms: “I am convinced that healing can be no more than suggestion, placebo or other self-healing effects, defensive denial of unwanted illnesses, wishful thinking, and sometimes even deliberate charlatanism.”
Walter challenged me, “Have you ever personally observed a healer?” I had to admit I had never bothered to study something so obviously attributable to self-deception. Somewhat reluctantly, I accepted his invitation to observe Ethel Lombardi, a Reiki healing Master. This challenge changed my life.
Ethel brought about a physical change in a young man that was impossible according to all my medical and psychological understanding of how the body functions. A lump under his nipple started out measuring 1 x 2 centimeters, was rubbery-firm (like an eraser), was more fixed than one would like to see in any lump (suggesting it might be invasive), and was quite tender. Ethel treated him with a laying-on of hands, placing her hands over the chakras — the energy centers on the midline of the body. After only half an hour, during which time the young man cried vigorously — without explaining what he was experiencing (that bothered me as a psychiatrist!) – the lesion had changed. It had shrunk by a centimeter, was soft, freely mobile and not tender.
Fortunately, another physician was there with me and we agreed on our palpation of the lesion before and after the healing. Otherwise I am certain I would have let what we call retrocognitive dissonance convince me that I must have mismeasured or misremembered my perceptions — in order to explain away something that contradicted my expectations and understandings of what can happen with a lump under a young man’s nipple in half an hour.
Tremendously impressed with Ethel’s healing, I went to the literature to see what research had been published. This was the start of a collection of 155 controlled studies of healing that is now published in my book. These include studies of humans, other animals, plants, bacteria, yeasts, cells in laboratory culture, enzymes and more. Some of the studies were with touch healing, some with hands held near the studied organisms, and some were done from distances of several meters to several miles. More than half of these studies demonstrate significant effects.
There can be little doubt that healing works. Let us examine one of the 155 controlled studies.
Distant healing produced significant effects in patients with cardiac problems. Randolph Byrd, M.D. arranged for prayer healing to be sent to 192 patients on a coronary care unit, while another 201 patients served as controls. This was done with a double-blind design, where neither the patients nor the treating or evaluating physicians knew which patients were sent the healing and which were not. The patients were randomly assigned to either of these groups, and no significant differences were noted between the groups on many variables. Highly significant effects were found in the treated group, in which there were lower incidences of intubation/ventilation, use of antibiotics, cardiopulmonary arrest, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and the use of diuretics. The study was published in the respected, conventional Southern Medical Journal in 1988.
On the basis of this evidence from the many significant studies, and in view of the absence of negative side effects of healing, I believe that if healing were a medicine it would be on the market.
How can we understand healing, which seems to occur through intention and subtle energies?
Albert Einstein pointed out, earlier in this century, that matter and energy are interchangeable. Quantum physics has amply confirmed his theory. Conventional, Newtonian medicine continues to address the body primarily as matter. Healers have been saying for a long time that they are addressing the energy body when they do healings. Allopathic and energy medicine approaches simply represent the two sides of Einstein’s equation, E = mc2.
Why is it so hard for conventional medicine and science to accept healing as a valid and potent treatment?
Modern science has gone through a similar process in assimilating the observations and theories of quantum physics.
Some of the observations of quantum physics, that relate to the energy side of the equation, are counterintuitive to conventional, Newtonian physics, and to “everyday, common sense”. In conventional physics and medicine, linear interactions are the rule. (Note another prejudicial term.) We deal with measurable forces that produce measurable effects in material objects or chemicals.
In quantum physics, it has been shown that non-local effects may occur. An electron may be understood both as a particle and as a wave function. Single electrons may bilocate when passing through two slits. Time may flow backwards as well as forwards. The universe is so intricately interwoven that every element in it is ultimately influenced by every other element. An event may be considered as both occurring and not occurring — until an observer intervenes and determines which is the case. In other words, the observer cannot be separated from the system that is being observed. Much has been made of the similarities between modern physics and psi phenomena in excellent books, such as Fritjof Capra’s The Tao Physics, so I shall not belabor these.
I am fascinated as a psychiatrist and healer to review the psychological and social processes in the assimilation of the new concepts of quantum physics. It took several decades of research before these observations, that run counter to our ordinary experiences of the world, were accepted. A similar process is apparent with psi healing.
There may be greater difficulty with the acceptance of healing, however, as this involves a shift in world views with far more personal consequences than the abstract and highly theoretical shifts with quantum physics. Many people find it threatening to learn that another person might influence them through thoughts or intentions. Rather than examine and deal with their discomforts, they prefer to reject the threatening concepts and to distance themselves from those who propose them. This is analogous to the ancient method of killing the messenger who bears bad news. People who advocate a belief in healing may be discredited and may suffer various discriminations against them.
It took several decades for scientists to accept these counterintuitive observations of modern physics. The same is happening with healing.
Copyright © Daniel J. Benor, M.D. 1994 Reprinted with permission of the author, P.O. Box 76 Bellmawr NJ 08099 / www.WholisticHealingResearch.com DB@WholisticHealingResearch.com
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where Dr. Benor talks about integrating spiritual healing with conventional medicine.