Imagine being treated for cancer, burns or high blood pressure without the aid of medication or surgery. Imagine even being cured of those maladies simply by someone willing you to be cured. That’s the premise behind psychic healing, laying-on-of-hands, therapeutic touch and/or distant healing.
In my third novel, which is still in the idea stage, the psionic officer Doug possesses psychometabolic powers such as are described in D&D’s Complete Psionic’s Handbook (1), including healing, adrenalin control and cell adjustment, which means he could heal someone’s illness or wounds.
Does such a phenomenon actually exist, opening the doors to miracles cures? Or is it still firmly confined to the realm of Dungeons and Dragons?
Research on the topic is staggering with nearly as many proponents for as there are debunkers against. Even the Catholic Church has entered the fracas, taking a firm stance against Therapeutic Touch (2). In his paper to the Catholic Medical Association, P. Guinan states that “therapeutic touch” (quotations used by Guinan) is not a practice employed by the Catholic Hospital Pastoral Practice, after an extensive review of scientific literature.
While the term “therapeutic touch” is used interchangeably with “laying-on-of-hands” throughout his article, it appears that research in general has actually been splitting hairs and going in different directions, producing noticeable gaps between the various idioms.
An article in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (3) reported that therapeutic touch (TT) “claims are groundless and that further use of TT by health professionals is unjustified.” The authors state that TT was renamed as such because the original name, laying-on-of-hands, was considered inappropriate for modern society. Therefore they limited their research to articles that included keywords such as TT or touch therapies.
However, a close inspection of the JAMA article reveals some interesting revelations. The initial point is that the first author listed under the title was a sixth-grade student at Loveland, Colorado at the time, and was only 9 years old when she completed her first trials. It was she who designed and conducted the tests cited in the article. The methods she developed were simplistic (i.e. which ‘healing’ hand is closest to the subject’s hand) in relation to the research conducted by advocates for psychic healing, who employed a variety of scientific techniques, such as electrocardiography (EKG), ultrasound (4) and even polygraphs (5).
The second notable aspect of the article is that nearly twenty percent of the references cited were doctoral dissertations or master’s theses. As a Ph.D., I know first-hand the intense scrutiny a student’s research receives from the faculty group and the advising professor. I also am aware of the omnipresent politics and bureaucracy that a student must endure and defer to during the journey and hopefully completion of graduate school.
The third and most interesting feature is the absence of articles referencing names ubiquitous to psychic healing (as I have found in my research review), such as Oskar Estabany, Dr. Bernard Grad, William Braud and Marilyn Schlitz.
According to the web-site williamjames.com, in 1959 Dr. Bernard Grad conducted studies on Oskar Estabany, a former cavalry officer in the Hungarian army. Estabany was reported to have extraordinary healing powers, discovered while treating army horses. Dr. Grad’s research showed that mice who had a portion of skin removed were healed significantly faster by Mr. Estabany’s treatment than the wounded mice who were not treated by him.
Further demonstrations of the Hungarian healers’ abilities were studied by Smith (6), who discovered the healer’s ability to stimulate the activity of the enzyme trypsin as measured on a known substrate in vitro. Statistically significant stimulations of the enzyme activity were repeated consistently over a period of three weeks.
Dolores Krieger, who developed TT (and subsequently trashed by the JAMA article) studied Estabany using hemoglobin levels as indicators of his talents (7). According to Varvoglis, Estabany applied his “laying-on-of-hands” (placing one or both hands on or near the patient’s body) to forty-nine people suffering from a broad range of unspecified illnesses. Hemoglobin levels of the ‘treated’ group were statistically significantly higher and stayed elevated for a full year than for an untreated group of twenty-nine patients with similar health problems.
Much of Dr. Grad’s research and articles with and without Mr. Estabany can be found listed by Dossey and Schwartz (8) and Ostrander and Schroeder (9).
W. Braud and M. Schlitz of the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio, Texas are also discussed by M. Maher (4), James (5), Varvoglis (7) and Dossey and Schwartz (8), but not in the JAMA article as mentioned earlier nor in Guinan’s review. It is interesting that the nay-sayers go to great pains (or not-so-great) to debunk the psychic healing myth, stating that there is very little supporting it and yet ignore important contributions to the study of the phenomenon.
Braud and Schlitz’s work on mental imagery is well-documented using a polygraph to record the electrodermal activity of the ‘receiver’ or distant subject. The influencer or ‘sender’ imagined the distant subject in appropriate relaxing or activating settings. Based on the results of thirteen experiments, the phenomenon of this imagery is relatively reliable and robust (5), which seems to support the aspect of telepathy rather than psychic healing. Still, their research shows that intention alone can affect human physiology from a distance (4).
In their book “Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain”, Ostrander and Schroeder (9) documented the abilities of Colonel Alexei Krivorotov, from the Georgian capitol of Tblisi, who worked in conjunction with his son, a medical doctor. The authors described how Col. Krivorotov moves his hands “about five centimeters” from a patient’s body. The patients reported feeling great heat from the colonel’s hands, although tests showed no change in temperature in neither Krivorotov’s hands nor the patients’ skin. Ostrander and Schroeder, interestingly enough, leave the subject of the colonel at this point in the book without further discussing the final results of the patients he attempted to cure.
Maher et al (4) did extensive research on ‘Healers’ and ‘Patients’ in 1992, who were residents of St. Petersburg, Russia. The main focus of their research was on the tactile thresholds (sensitivity) of the fingers of Healers, Patients, Healer Simulators, and Patient Controls. Their results “provided significant data that were consistent with the introspections of healers.” They stated that the tests “provide no more than a preliminary indication of the usefulness” of this research and suggest “refinements for future rigorous tests” such as using larger groups of subjects. In other words, they were not overwhelmed.
The famed Russian psychokinetic Ninel Kulagina (aka Neyla Mikhailova) reportedly could cause third degree burns on her stomach (9). This gives credence to the idea that psychic powers can affect body tissue, as well as enzymes. But was the stomach the only place Ms. Kulagina could produce these burns? Were burns the only injury she could produce?
So as the question was asked in my previous article, “Could Jean Grey Become Storm?” (10), what is being affected here, or what process is the psychic healer using to cure? Medical doctors employ thousands of surgical procedures and thousands of medicines to cure our ills, aches and pains. Yet very few, if any, of the healers mentioned here had any noted prior medical training. So if they do not know the intricacies and complexities of our bodies, how can they cure? Could the psychic healers be commanding our bodies own natural resources and defenses to cure us?