POETRY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
PROSE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
QUOTES
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
VIDEO CLIPS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
PHOTOGRAPHY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
MUSIC
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
EVENTS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
BOOK REVIEWS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Chief Editor
Dr Mike Ellis
Email: mindquest@
ozemail.com.au

Publisher
Lesley Pocock

Contact details
medi+WORLD International
572 Burwood Road
Hawthorn 3122,
Australia

Ph: +61 3 9819 1224
Fax: +61 3 9819 3269
Email: lesleypocock@
mediworld.com.au

Biofield Medicine - History, Philosophy and Modern Day Applications
by © Dr Paul Stevens 2003

 


"Do not believe anything because it is said by an authority or it is said to come from Angels or from God's or from an inspired source. Believe it only if you have experienced it in your own heart and mind and body and found it to be true. Work out your own path through this world with diligence." Buddha

Heaven can bring things to life but cannot distinguish them, Earth can sustain Man but cannot order him; thus beneath the canopy of heaven all species of creatures and living men depend on mutual harmony that they may find their proper stations in life. Hsun Ch'ing 240 BC (Hughes, 1942)


Abstract

The biofield in both man and nature is an ancient and ubiquitous concept in the philosophy and healing traditions of many cultures. Such a diverse heritage is explored. In modern society, it can be seen to have influence in disciplines as far reaching as western medicine, physics, biology, psychology and literature. The modern development, theoretical possibilities and clinical use of biofield medicine are discussed.


Definition of Biofield Medicine

A biofield is a living communication network derived from the bioelectrical phenomena inherent in our living tissues. It is also a manifestation of the integration of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual process. As a piezoelectric system this energy may be bioelectric or bioelectromagnetic in nature, although the actual manifestation of the biofield is poorly understood.

Biofield medicine (BFM), also known as vibrational medicine, refers to those therapies intended to affect ones own or another's bioenergy fields which surround and interpenetrate the human body (Miles and True, 2003). These bioenergy fields are synonymous with the subtle energy bodies and the terms may be used interchangeably. Subtle bodies are in effect layers of consciousness ranging from the biophysical to the transpersonal.

BFM includes the modalities of Reiki, Healing or Therapeutic Touch, Qigong, Yoga, meditation, Polarity therapy, Kinesiology, chakra balancing, and may be extended to network chiropractic, craniosacral osteopathy and modern psychotherapy.

The earth may also have its own biofield, in part, the natural rhythmic pulsations of the Schumann Resonance at 7.83 hertz. Some authors suggest a relationship between this and the human brain wave frequencies namely Alpha waves (8 to 13 Hz) and Theta waves (4 to 7 Hz), and hence the conscious manifestation of the biofield. There may well be some, as yet undetermined evolutionary link to these rhythms (Smith, 2003).


History and Philosophy

Pre-scientific notions of an energy manifesting all pervasively and connecting man, nature and cosmos are evident in all traditional cultures (Miles and True, 2003). McLenon suggests, "that those experiencing altered states of consciousness constructed cosmologies on inner worlds they discovered and found special techniques increased their ability to experience these states" (McClenon, 1993).

The Universal consciousness expressed by Lao Tzu as "The Tao is beyond words and cannot be thought", exists in many similar forms around the world: Polynesian and Melanesian mana, Iroquois orenda, Sioux wakan, Malay kramat, Indian brahma, Greek dynamis, and Chinese qi,(Stevens, 2001).
Literature on the human subtle energy body appears in certainty about 600 BC in the Vedic upanishad texts. They describe the location of five chakras, nadis (channels/ meridians), yoga practice and marma (acupoint) shastra, an ancient Indian martial art that manipulates vital points in the body (Baker, 2000, Kazlev, 2003).

Energy follows thought and the influence of conscious process and intent is central to subtle energy body activity and healing. Ayurveda proposes that all disease originates with an imbalance or stress in an individuals consciousness (NCCAM, 2002).

Frawley states "…consciousness is not merely thought, intellect or reason, it is the feeling of being alive and being related to all life….the ancient seers of India held that the Self alone exists, that unity is the basis of all existence, that the unity of life is the unity of consciousness. Plants exist to transmute light into life via photosynthesis; human beings exist to transmute life into consciousness and love via perception.

The Sanskrit word for plant is osadhi meaning literally a receptacle or mind, dhi, in which there is burning transformation, osa. The sages of India approached healing not with a science of experimentation, but rather a direct form of participation. Experimentation implies distance, becoming measured and translated. In contrast direct perception, or meditation, is the science of yoga, allowing the essence of the thing to disclose itself."(Frawley, 1988)

The Yoga system is directed at the attainment of a unique state of spontaneous, psychological integration (Neki, 1975). Physical practice of the asanas (postures) aims to promote unimpeded energy flow, the breath (pranayama) regulates the mind so that concentration and meditation (conscious intent) may allow the subtle body to commune with the universal energy (Iyengar, 1976),(Shandor, 2003).

Modern psychologists have described this state as "individuation" or "self-actualization". This state of clear awareness, rather than the usual unconscious distraction, may allow greater sensitivity to subtle energy as well as its many well documented psychological benefits (Walsh, 2000). Tibetan Tantra (Vajrayana Buddhism) further developed this idea with the use of conscious intent and yogic techniques in personal transformation. Tantra refers to the "unbroken continuity of enlightened energy that permeates all aspects of existence and connects all sentient beings" (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, 1992). Here yoga postures and pranayama seek to activate the chakras. These have no form or location but are subtle consciousness awakened by meditation and visualization in the higher subtle body. There are three central energy channels parallel to the spinal cord through which this visualization is performed (Baker, 2000).


The Subtle Bodies

Many other esoteric texts refer to the subtle energy bodies. These include the Hermetic (body, vital spirit, psyche, divine intellect), Egyptian, Hebrew Kabbalistic (five souls, tree of life), Theosophical (seven vehicles of consciousness), and later New Age writings of Barbara Brennan (seven energy field bodies). Much of our western theory originated from books published by Arthur Avalon and G.W. Leadbeater in the early 20th century (Kazlev, 2003).

The current most widely accepted model is seven layered with increasing levels of subtleness. First beyond the physical is the etheric, housing the Qi force, meridians, bioelectric field. It is accessible with pranayama, acupuncture and kundilini techniques. Surrounding this are the emotional and mental bodies. The first spiritual body, termed astral constitutes the psycho-energic transformation between the physical dimensions and the subtle spiritual. It is this body that may leave the physical in the well known 'out of body experience'. Three further bodies exist outside of this, representing the transpersonal consciousness (Fig 1).

People often experience subtle energy without realizing its significance, however few people develop transpersonal awareness. The etheric body is where thought, emotions, belief systems, memories and energetic exchanges form our self-created realities and condition our physical body. The emotional mind (body) also influences the physical body, the mental/rational mind (body) influences and filters what is allowed into our awareness. It is these bodies that many people engage with when they first explore the realms of subtle energy and it is often confusing, due to its initial unconscious nature (Isobel McGilvray, Personal Communication).


Chakras

Charkas are energy loci, having the form of a vortex, each with a corresponding endocrine gland, sympathetic plexus, psychological characteristic, association with a subtle body and a precise location in the body. Minor chakras in peripheral locations are also referred to. In addition to influencing the circulatory and endocrine systems each chakra impacts on the psychological and spiritual (Kazlev, 2003). As with the subtle bodies the three lower chakras are related to our raw emotions and biological instincts. The four higher chakras are related to higher cognitive states. There is no direct reference to chakras in Taoist texts, rather energy centers termed "Dantian's". Comparison of the charkas functions to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has been made (Dickson, 2002). Major works discussing the modern psychological aspects of chakras include Brennan(Brennan, 1993) Judith(Judith, 1997) and Wilber(Wilber, 1981). Each chakra is able to express and receive vibrational energy to and from the energy bodies. Dysfunctional charkas manifest if lower charkas do not support the upper ones or if they are in excessive or deficient states, akin to TCM theory (Judith, 1997). Brennan also has developed the idea of two rows of chakras on the ventral and dorsal surfaces each with functional differentiations (Kazlev, 2003.


Healing

BFM modalities help to strengthen the energetic connections between the personality and the biofield, by rebalancing the body / mind / spirit complex as a whole. Not all biofield healing tools work at the higher energetic levels, but it is the intent and goal of the healer to assist this alignment within clients. It is theorized that there may be a transient energy link between the charkas/biofield of the healer and the patient (Jonas and Crawford, 2003). Krieger and Brugh Joy have also been important developers of theory and techniques in healing touch (Chaitow, 2000).

Miles and True descibe Reiki addressing two levels of energy- the spiritual archetypal consciousness or primordial Qi and the bioenergetic system (chakras etc) for rebalancing body-mind problems. Reiki and polarity therapy practitioners develop non-attachment and use initiation and passive flow of vibration energy, rather than intention per se (Miles and True, 2003), (Seidman, 1991). The healer's involvement in the energetic system of the client will permit a therapeutic effect (Wardell and Engebretson, 2001). In modern psychotherapy, Asian philosophy is becoming increasingly influential with recognition of the multilayered nature of the unconscious, archetypal forces and the beneficial effects of transpersonal experiences (Walsh, 2000).


BFM Research

Research into the effects of BFM is often classified 'junk science' and its claims pithiatism. Critics claim one of the most prevalent pitfalls in everyday decision-making is to mistake correlation for causation. Logicians refer to this error as the Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy ("After this, therefore because of this"). Under the rules of science, the burden of proof of the reliability of tests and the efficacy of treatment is on the proponent (Beyerstein, 2000).

In Tillers foreword to Gerber's extensive review of vibrational medicine (Gerber, 1988) he states: " The physical body reveals the obvious materialization of disease; the relationship to the more subtle aspects that relate to health is not so easily measured. Conventional allopathic …can be classed as truly objective because it deals with nature on a purely four-dimensional space/time level…this has occurred because the reliable sensing ability of both humans and instrumentation operates on this level. Homeopathic (biofield) medicine, on the other hand, deals indirectly with the physical body by dealing directly with substance and energies at the next, and more subtle, level. It must be classed at this time as subjective medicine for the following reasons: 1) It deals with energy that can be strongly perturbed by the mental and emotional activity of individuals and 2) there has not been any diagnostic equipment available to date to support the homeopathic physicians hypothesis…both theoretical structure and an experimental laboratory … are essential for the generation of a correct scientific foundation".

There is no doubt that poor methodology plagues BFM studies. A review of research so far provides poor evidence for the validity of BFM over and above belief and influence from confounding factors(Crawford et al., 2003). In a review of healing touch trials Astin et al claims 57% report a positive effect. No measure of internal validity was performed. (Astin et al., 2000) Benor found a similar percentage of effectiveness however methodologies are not reported on (Benor, 1991) (Benor, 2001). Crawford et al (2003) reviews 90 randomized, controlled, peer reviewed trials in healing touch between 1955 and 2001. This again shows positive outcomes in 65% of studies, with a minimum internal validity rating of 69%. Warber et al in (Jonas and Crawford, 2003) review 19 controlled trials. 58% report significant effects. Research quality was judged 'poor to fair'.

Despite methodological problems positive results have been shown in many chronic medical conditions including the relief of pain, in the elderly, in AIDS, CFS, cancer, and substance abuse. The most significant area of research has been on meditation, in particular Trancendental Meditation, having a better quality of research, and positive results in the areas of hypertension, anxiety, pain and stress relief (Benor, 2002).


A Synthesis of Biofield Theory

The birth of modern science during the European renaissance was marked by scientific abandonment of vitalist theory, although the issue of the organization of living systems plagued Newtonian theorists. Stahl comments that "life flies in the face of the laws of physics" (entropy) and if survival is to be achieved an organism must possess a "principle of conservation that maintains harmony - a natural permanent immanent principle" (Prigogine, 1988). Many other writers and philosophers were uncomfortable with all that Newtonian determinism implied. William Blake wrote to Thomas Butts in 1802 stating" May God us keep, from single vision and Newton's sleep!" (Prigogine, 1988). Hegel, Herman Hesse (Hesse, 1943), Aldous Huxley, Jung and Capra have all continued this vitalistic movement.

Hintz (2003) states that "while the concept is broadly meant to be the basis of healing in a varied set of practices….it does not (as yet) identify a particular energy per se". Yet being able to experience healing but unable to describe it is common in a western society based on material aspects of existence. What is not measurable may merely be a different class of phenomena for which our instruments are inappropriate, a signal lost in the noise of normal human consciousness (Benor, 2002).

Since Newton, we have assumed that a 'real world' exists independently, regardless of whether or not we observe it. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, although disliked by Einstein, suggested such concepts do not exist in nature unless and until we observe them. It suggests we may ask questions, but we may not always be entitled to answers. "Born of a single quantum event, the Universe is at some basic level a single interconnected quantum system" (Anon, 2003). Many authors refer to biofield medicine as utilizing the 'Einsteinian paradigm' however modern quantum theory is in fact the progeny of a large group of early 20th century physicists including Planck, Bohr, de Broglie, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Pauli (Stenger, 1999). Interesting parallels to Buddhist theory on the inherent non-existence of self can be made with both the uncertainty principle and complex systems theory.

Can healing then be understood on the basis of interactions with a whole-body integrated communication system? Historically each field of physics (classical, electrodynamics, statistical and quantum physics) has undergone a process of identifying the object of study, developing a special way of thinking about it, and formulating a special mathematics. With biofield theory a new physics is now evolving yet orthodox medicine has not recognized that living tissue is a sophisticated and dynamic bioelectric communication network, with a long evolutionary heritage (Oschman, 2002a).

The modern concept of the biofield began in developmental biology with Burrs work on biocurrents in what was known as field theory. Questioning how non-specialized embryonic cells know what particular specialized cells and tissues to become, it was suggested that a non-local field, a "blueprint" determines and operates the developmental process. It was assumed that the biofield is a three-dimensional web woven of vibrating electric and magnetic fields (Gerber, 1988). Nordenstrom later described preferential ion conductance pathways. Field theory largely died out in the latter 20th century as molecular biology developed. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the discoverer of Vitamin C and Nobel laureate, further pioneered the idea of living substance as a bioelectric communication network with the ability to detect and conduct energy and information, to store information, and to process signals (Oschman, 2002b).

Gerber theorises that the etheric body is a holographic template which provides structural information for the cellular systems of the physical body and which can guide homeostatic mechanisms (Gerber, 1988). Living tissue is in fact a "highly regular array of semi-conducting molecules with a precisely ordered water subsystem associated with it". Since connective tissue is piezoelectric, i.e. it can "produce coherent self-sustaining oscillations with complex harmonics" and it can generate, transmit and convert various kinds of vibratory information (Schmidl, 2000).

The potential to influence enzymes and proteins and hence growth, morphogenesis, regeneration, and disease resistance is proposed (Oschman, 2002a). Receptors sensitive to bioenergy may be molecular (cell membranes and DNA) or charge flux sites (ion channels) and serve to induce conformational change in molecular signals to cellular processes. Hintz et al extensively review the possible mechanisms in this excellent paper (Hintz et al., 2003).

Hintz et al (2003) also provide an exciting framework for future bioenergy research. A bioenergy system is the energy generated by a biological system, where energy is the capacity to do work. There is then a flow called biomotive force, a coupling mechanism and a transfer medium (usually hands to skin), and finally a way for energy to affect the recipient. Research towards the biological action of the biomotive force and its interrelationship with the endogenous bioenergy fields is in its infancy and few if any satisfactory measurement practices exist. There is little scientific evidence to recommend Voll or AMI machines or Kirlian photography in their current form, in either measurement or diagnosis and they may well be the equivalent to alchemic practice when what is required is the sensitivity of modern day chemistry. They also place little emphasis on the major attribute of the healing relationship - that of conscious intent.

Current measurements of bioelectromagnetism do not represent a single, unified phenomenon, nor have they been shown to have the spiritual/mystical properties attributed to auras (Hintz et al., 2003). It appears unlikely that the biofield is truly measurable by the tools we currently possess (Savva, 2000). For example the Kirlian aura (to which Gerber admits as much) is in fact a visual or photographic image of a corona discharge in a gas, in most cases the ambient air. Moreover, experiments have failed to yield any evidence that the coronal pattern is related to the physiological, psychological, or psychic condition of the sample, but instead only to finger pressure, moisture, and other mechanical, environmental, and photographic factors (Permutt, 1988).

There is however a strong correlation between the osteopathic principles of the fascial matrix and cranial fluid dynamics proposed by Sutherland and Upledger respectively (Cohen, 1995), the Somatic disciplines theory of the relationship between organism state, focus (internal representations) and physiology (Oschman, 2002a) and this model of the biofield. Fritz Smith (zero balancing) makes a further refinement suggesting a tiered energy model. Tier one is the non-organized background field, tier two the vertical current flow that orientates with our environment and tier three made up of three further sublevels of skeletal, soft tissue and superficial vibration currents (Chaitow, 2000).

Somatic theory suggests most adults express emotions via repetitive patterns solidifying into somatic manifestations - the concept of tissue memory (Oschman, 2002a). Practitioners may free restrictions of energy where psycho-emotive patterns are stuck in the psyche or the tissues. If indeed there is a flux between the emotional and the biofield then this model is highly significant.


Conclusion

A model of "healing energy" to explain a wide range of biofield phenomena has evolved. The energy matrix is able to sense the internal and external environment, process information and integrate functions throughout the body. When the communication system becomes disordered or unbalanced, the flow of information is slowed, and healing is compromised. External 'healing' energy can reopen the communication channels and thereby facilitate tissue repair and replacement. Of particular benefit is the ability to increase immunity and the stress response and decrease autonomic hyperactivity (Miles and True, 2003). Oschman (2002a) also suggests that practices such as mediation, yoga and Qigong bring about an ordering of the tissue structure such that they become more capable of emitting strong, coherent signals. This is effectively self-healing by energy work.

We are at a unique time in history. The popularity of all methods of BFM healing is rapidly rising in our society, and with proper ethical and methodological practice, we as practitioners are able to contribute to the development of not only a new physics but also a new medical system.


References

Anon (2003) The rest is history New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/hottopics/quantum/therest.jsp

Astin, J. A., Harkness, E. and Ernst, E. (2000) The efficacy of "distant healing": a systematic review of randomized trials Ann Intern Med, 132, 903-10.

Baker, I. (2000) The Dalai Lama's Secret Temple- Tantric Wall Paintings from Tibet, Thames & Hudson.

Benor, D. (2001) In Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing RevolutionVision, pp. 187-376.

Benor, D. J. (1991) Spiritual healing in clinical practice Nurs Times, 87, 35-7.

Benor, D. J. (2002) Energy medicine for the internist Med Clin North Am, 86, 105-25.

Beyerstein, B. (2000) Social and Judgmental Biases That Make Inert Treatments Seem to Work Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/417886

Brennan, B. (1993) Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field, Bantam Doubleday Dell.

Chaitow, L. (2000) Palpation Skills - Assessment and Diagnosis Through Touch, Churchill Livingston.
Cohen, D. (1995) An Introduction to Craniosacral Therapy, North Atlantic.

Crawford, C. C., Sparber, A. G. and Jonas, W. B. (2003) A systematic review of the quality of research on hands-on and distance healing: clinical and laboratory studies Altern Ther Health Med, 9, A96-104.

Dickson, J. (2002) The Chakras: An Essential Component in Healing Touch. http://www.chomg.com/healing%20touch%20and%20the%20chakras.htm

Frawley, D. (1988) The Yoga of Herbs, Lotus Press.

Gerber, R. (1988) Vibrational Medicine, Bear & Co.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, K. (1992) Clear Light of Bliss: A Commentary to the Practice of Mahamudra in Vajrayana Buddhism, Tharpa Pubns.

Hesse, H. (1943) The Glass Bead Game, Random House.

Hintz, K. J., Yount, G. L., Kadar, I., Schwartz, G., Hammerschlag, R. and Lin, S. (2003) Bioenergy definitions and research guidelines Altern Ther Health Med, 9, A13-30.

Hughes, E. R. (1942) Chinese philosophy in classical times, Dent, London.

Iyengar, B. (1976) Light on Yoga, Harper Collins.

Jonas, W. B. and Crawford, C. C. (2003) Science and spiritual healing: a critical review of spiritual healing, "energy" medicine, and intentionality Altern Ther Health Med, 9, 56-61.

Judith, A. (1997) Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self, Ten Speed Press.

Kazlev, M. (2003) The Chakras http://www.kheper.net/topics/chakras/chakras.htm

McClenon, J. (1993) The experiential foundations of shamanic healing J Med Philos, 18, 107-27.

Miles, P. and True, G. (2003) Reiki--review of a biofield therapy history, theory, practice, and research Altern Ther Health Med, 9, 62-72.

NCCAM (2002) What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://altmed.od.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/

Oschman, J. (2002a) Readings on the Scientific Basis of Bodywork and Movement Therapies http://www.somatics.de/Oshman.htm

Oschman, J. L., and Oschman, N.H. (2002b) How Energy Healing Works http://theamt.com/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=143

Permutt, C. (1988) Photographing the Spirit World, The Aquarian Press.

Prigogine, I. S., I (1988) Order out of Chaos - Man's new dialogue with nature, Flamingo.

Savva, S. (2000) Alternative Biophysics: Investing in the Study of the Biofield MISAHA Issue 24-27, February 2000 http://www.geocities.com/misaha93923/alternative.html

Schmidl, G. (2000) Experimental Evidence for the Fröhlich Hypothesis http://www.fourcoffees.com/project/evidence.html

Seidman, M. (1991) A Guide to Polarity Therapy, Elan Press.

Shandor, R. (2003) Yoga of the Shadow School http://www.shandor.com.au/

Smith, T. (2003) Schumann Resonances, Geomagnetic Reversals , and Human Brain States http://www.innerx.net/personal/tsmith/Schumann.html

Stenger, V. J. (1999) Biofield Theory: Physics contra Spiritual Energy: A summary of Spiritual Energy Theories by a Physicist http://jeromekahn123.tripod.com/spiritualism/id6.html

Stevens, P. (2001) Magical Thinking in Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://www.csicop.org/si/2001-11/alternative.html

Walsh, R. (2000) In Current Psychtherapies(Ed, Corsini, R. W., D.) F.E. Peacock.

Wardell, D. W. and Engebretson, J. (2001) Biological correlates of Reiki Touch(sm) healing J Adv Nurs, 33, 439-45.

Wilber, K. (1981) No Boundary, Shambhala Boston.