Cross Currents: The Perils of Electropollution
The promise of Electromedicine
by Robert Becker M.D.
“If the healer phenomenon is real, we do not know whether it operates via the placebo effect or whether any energy flow is involved, either from the healer to the patient or vice versa. Part of the problem lies in the deeply ingrained rejection of the entire concept by both scientific medicine and the physical and biological sciences. Nothing will produce more of an uproar at a medical meeting than asking, “What about the healer phenomenon?”
If the healer actually evokes the placebo effect, we should be able to find evidence for this in the common practices of well-known healers. The placebo effect can be activated only by two distinctly different techniques: the teacher, used by practitioners of minimalist techniques of energy medicine, and the authoritarian, practiced by physicians using known ineffective drugs.
In my contacts with healers over the past twenty years, I have found that the genuine ones adopt a businesslike attitude toward their practice. Each patient is treated, not taught. No true healers present themselves as authoritarian figures or as persons possessed of mystical powers. If the placebo effect is operating, it must be on the basis of preconditioned patients, not on any actions of the healer. While there are undoubtedly some such preconditioned patients, I have found them to be in the minority. Finally, Chinese healers also work quite successfully with animals — where there can be no placebo effect.
Yet healing works. I have seen remarkable results obtained in a number of life-threatening circumstances. Most authentic healers actually do not know what they do; they know only that they have the “gift” of healing. They do not question how it is accomplished. Most healers are ordinary people who hold regular jobs and who do their healing treatments in their spare time.
The late Olga Worrall was one such person. “Auntie” Olga viewed her gift in a matter-of-fact fashion. In her later years, she conducted one healing session a week, in the basement of a neighborhood church. Each patient was given the necessary time, which was generally less than ten minutes.
Olga presented the appearance of nothing more than a kindly grandmother, an ordinary personate her patients reported experiencing a feeling of great calm and contentment and a sensation of having received “something.” Olga told me that the healing seemed to take something out of her; as she grew older, she had to limit her treatments because of her increasing fatigue. Something other than the simple placebo effect seemed to be occurring.
Since we know that the body uses electrical control systems to regulate many basic functions and that the flow of these electrical currents produces externally measurable magnetic fields, it does not require a great leap of faith to postulate that the healer’s gift is an ability to use his or her own electrical control systems to produce external electromagnetic energy fields that interact with those of the patient. The interaction could be one that “restores” balance in the internal forces or that reinforces the electrical systems so that the body returns toward a normal condition.
In the past, we had only anecdotal evidence to support this concept. One “experiment” involved the healer placing his hands on the outside of a cloud chamber, a device originally used to detect the passage of high-energy atomic and subatomic particles. Strange things were said to occur within the chamber, but they were poorly characterized. This was further confused by a later experiment in which the healer, located many miles away, simply thought of the cloud chamber, and the strange events were said to recur. This experiment, while interesting and worthy of duplication, was uncontrolled, and the results have done little to clarify the issues.
Unfortunately, the intellectual bias against the phenomenon of the healer is so great that it has been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get reputable scientists with the necessary equipment to become involved in valid studies. This condition is now changing. The healer phenomenon has become accepted by much of the public, and some forward-looking physicians are beginning to think that this technique, as well as the other techniques of energy medicine, should be scientifically studied.
At this most appropriate time, a young healer named Mietek Wirkus has come to the United States from Poland, where the situation for healers is much different. There, the healer is accepted as a valid medical therapist and is subject to licensing by the government.
Wirkus is convinced that his treatment involves the flow of energy from him to the patient, and that the energy involved is electromagnetic. This is particularly important because he, in contrast to Olga Worrall, does not touch the patient. Therefore, any energy involved must be of a type that is transmissible across space. Of the forces available, only electromagnetism qualifies.
I first met the Wirkuse’s early in 1988 and had the opportunity to ask Mietek a number of questions that I considered important from the energy — transfer point of view. In particular, I felt that if his ability involved a major level of control over his internal electrical control systems, then in addition to being able to “project” an external field, he should also be able to sense the disturbed electrical fields within the patients at the site of disease. In that sense, he should be able to make a diagnosis, not of a specific disease, but of the site of the disease.
In making this prediction, I drew on both theoretical science and my own experiences as a practicing physician and surgeon for many years. I have become convinced that some of us make a final diagnosis based not only on the physical examination and laboratory tests, but also on a “gut feeling” or intuition of some sort. It takes time to do this — time to talk with the patient in addition to conducting the physical examination.
The best example I can think of to show this in action involves the differential diagnosis between acute appendicitis and acute mesenteric adenitis. These two conditions have practically identical laboratory findings and physical signs on examination, yet the former must be treated surgically, while the latter will resolve itself without surgery. The modern physician will, more often than not, opt for the diagnosis of mesenteric adenitis and not operate, so that the stigma of doing an appendectomy when there is no appendicitis may be avoided.
Of course, if the patient really has acute appendicitis, the appendix will rupture, and it can be treated (sometimes) with surgery and antibiotics. In contrast, I have seen older surgeons go into a patient’s room, spend an hour, and emerge with a diagnosis. They were right far more often than they were wrong. I would suggest that the best surgeons thus make their diagnoses by some intuitive method that we do not yet understand.
When I spoke with Wirkus, he assured me that he could determine the presence of a disease and determine where it was located in each patient. In fact, even when he is first provided with a definite diagnosis, in treating any patient he first “scans” the total body, holding his hands a few centimeters away from the body surface, looking for other pathology. He was not sure exactly how he did this, but he felt that he sensed energy coming from the area of disease. He was also certain that when he treated a patient, some energy passed from him to the patient. He told me that it took much more energy from him to treat cancer or schizophrenia than to treat arthritis, skin conditions, insomnia, or neuroses.
I was able to watch Wirkus treat patients, and I also had the opportunity to have him work on me. The process appears simple: the fully clothed patient stands erect, and Wirkus moves about the patient, keeping his hands a few centimeters away from the body surface. He appears to be almost in a trance state; his eyes are open but appear unfocused, and he has a peculiar respiratory pattern of short, audible, regular breathing. The process takes less than ten minutes. When I was the patient, I shut my eyes so that I would not know where Wirkuse’s hands were. I wanted to determine whether I would experience any sensations during the procedure in any particular area of my body, without being influenced by my knowing where he was working. On several occasions I noted distinct feelings of warmth and tingling. Each time, on opening my eyes I found that the sensations were located near the position of Wirkuse’s hands. Immediately following the procedure, I felt his hands. They were distinctly cool and did not produce a feeling of warmth on my skin.
Wirkus had no knowledge of any of the diseases that I had. I have minor arthritis in my right hip joint, a mild spastic colitis, and rather severe glaucoma (with loss of almost 70 percent of the visual field in my right eye). On examining me, he diagnosed mild arthritis in the right hip, stated that I had some problems with my colon, and told me that the energy level on the back of my head was very low. While he found no problem with my right eye, the visual images from that eye go to the visual cortex at the back of the head.
In the same session, he diagnosed several other individuals with similar precision. Following my experience, we discussed the possible energetic aspects of his practice. He then described a singular event that reinforced the likelihood of such aspects. Before coming to the United States, Wirkus and his wife had given demonstrations of healing at various cities in Poland. One evening they were in a small city, using the stage of the local theater. The patient sat on a chair on the stage, with Wirkus standing next to him. Mrs. Wirkus was seated at a table, also on stage, about fifteen feet away. She had a microphone with which to explain to the audience what her husband was doing. The stage lights were located on the ceiling over the first row of seats, with the control box located in a cabinet at the side of the stage. The first three patients had simple depressive neuroses, which were easily treated, but the fourth case was a patient with cancer.
Because it was evening, the stage lights were on, but those in the rest of the theater were off. About fifteen minutes after treatment of the fourth case had begun, Mrs. Wirkus noted that the lights appeared to be slowly pulsing, and that this seemed to be producing waves of light over the front row of seats and the stage. The pulsing increased in intensity and frequency, and it was noted by the audience as well. The microphone then began to pulse at the same frequency, and Mrs. Wirkus pushed it away from her. The stir in the audience and his wife’s movements caused Wirkus to stop the treatment, and the lights and sounds suddenly returned to normal. The theater electrician, who had been in the audience, came rushing up, asking, “What have you done to my lights?” This was the only time such an unusual event had occurred during a treatment, and the only time those particular stage lights had behaved in such a fashion in that theater.
Using a frequency generator and a speaker, I was able to have Wirkus and his wife determine the frequencies involved. They both felt that the oscillations had begun at about one per second (I Hz), increasing in strength and frequency to about four or five per second (4-5 Hz), at which time Mrs. Wirkus pushed the microphone away and the session terminated.
It is, of course, impossible to determine exactly what happened, since all of this occurred several years ago and many miles away. However, we can speculate, using a knowledge of how stage lighting was done some years ago. The main requirement for stage lighting is that it be smoothly dimmed to full darkness and able to be “brought up” to full brilliance in the same fashion. In those days, this could not be done with the standard AC power system, and stage lights used a DC supply that could be slowly dimmed. If the theater had had such a system for stage lighting, it’s possible that Wirkus gave off a slowly varying electromagnetic field that was strong enough to produce a “modulation” of the DC supply to the lights. From a physics and engineering point of view, this is the only tenable possibility, and this observation lends some support to the theory that the healer phenomenon directly involves electromagnetic energy.
Recently, there has been firmer substantiation of this theory through some experiments done in mainland China. The healer technique in China is called Chi Gong (or Qi Gong, depending on the district in China that is involved). The method is more spectacular than that used by Wirkus. The Chi Gong “master” stands several feet away from the patient, makes certain classical, formalized movements of his body and arms, and then points his outstretched arm at the patient. The Chinese believe that the master acquires chi energy by means of these movements, and that he then projects that energy toward the patient, who is considered to be deficient in chi or else has the two components of chi imbalanced. While to Westerners this may sound like nonsense, this therapy has, along with acupuncture, persisted for many thousands of years in China. Chi Gong practitioners are also often called upon to treat animals, apparently with considerable success.
Given the details of the treatment, the only defensible possibility is that there is a transfer of electromagnetic energy from the Chi Gong master to the patient. In this case, what is the purpose of the stylized movements that are considered so important to the therapy? Dr. Jame Ma, professor of physics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has made an interesting suggestion. He postulates that these bodily movements are in the specific frequency range at which the proton, the nucleus of the hydrogen atom that is so common in water molecules of the body, will absorb energy from the Earth’s natural magnetic field by means of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). (Because the concept of electronic resonance is so important to the understanding of the relationship between living organisms and electromagnetic fields, it will be discussed in detail later in this book, in chapter 10.) To explore the relationship between electromagnetism and the Chi Gong phenomenon, doctors at the Huazhong Normal University in Wuhan, China, used NMR in an attempt to determine whether Chi Gong masters give off any electromagnetic radiation. They studied the effect of Chi Gong “treatment” on the complex, bioactive, organic, phosphorus-containing chemical o-n-propyl-o-allylthiophosphoramide. This particular chemical was chosen because it produced a well-characterized NMR spectrum in its normal state. However, if exposed to a low-strength electromagnetic field, the chemical would absorb the energy, and certain atomic “bonds” in its structure would be altered. This change would result in a specific recordable change in the NMR spectrum. The extent of the change in the NMR spectrum indicated the amount and the site of structural change in the chemical molecule. This changed molecular structure would persist for several hours after exposure of the chemical to the electromagnetic field. In the experiments, the chemical substance was enclosed in a sealed glass container, and Chi Gong masters were asked to “treat” it, holding their hands a certain distance away from the container. The NMR spectrum was recorded before the treatment and found to be normal. Following the treatment, the NMR spectrum changed significantly; the extent of the alteration in the NMR spectrum could be increased by repeating the Chi Gong exposure.
Similar studies are ongoing in the United States at this time; however, only preliminary results have been obtained. These studies are models of the type of rigorous, objective, scientific investigation that should be done in regard not only to the healer phenomenon, but to many of the other techniques of energy medicine as well. The conclusion that may be reached from the Chinese studies is that the healer phenomenon has a basis in physical reality, and that some form of electromagnetic energy is unquestionably involved. The results indicate that the healer gives off electromagnetic energy from his hands during the treatment process.
It is essential that we determine the strength and the frequencies of the field produced by the healer. An extremely useful device for this would be the SQUID magnetometer, the very sensitive magnetic field detector that made it possible to discover the magnetoencephalogram. While it is possible that the extreme sensitivity of the SQUID is not required, its accuracy and ability to measure both DC and time-varying magnetic fields makes it the best available. Unfortunately, the price of a good SQUID is about $75,000, and this does not include costs of normal upkeep. Since there are a number of such devices in use at various academic institutions around the country, it could be expected that in the interest of science, one of these devices would be made available for the few weeks necessary to complete this type of study. Unfortunately, this has not yet been done, despite a number of requests.
It also might be fruitful to determine those frequencies of the magnetic field to which healers are particularly sensitive. It may be possible to produce a “spectrum” of sensitivity that might indicate that different disease processes produce specific frequencies, and that these are sensed by the healer when he makes the diagnosis. If this should prove to be so, one could use this finding as a basis for designing diagnostic devices that would support, or even bypass, the healer for diagnosis. Wirkus may thus be cooperating in the ultimate demise of his technique — but, knowing him, I believe he would think it well worth it!
The minimal-energy techniques, which are based upon activation of the body’s innate internal control systems, work. As an orthodox trained physician and board-certified orthopedic surgeon, I have absolutely no hesitancy in recommending that patients with life-threatening conditions follow this route after they have been given a careful and full disclosure of all the therapeutic possibilities open to them.
In my opinion, the use of these techniques only as a “last resort” — after orthodox treatments have reduced or destroyed the patient’s own resistance systems — is probably much less effective. I try to follow one primary rule: make sure that the patient knows all there is to know about the illness and the therapeutic possibilities, both orthodox and unorthodox. Then, the patient must make his or her own decisions.