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, or unconventional 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 Batchelor's degree in psychology and specialty training in psychiatry, plus research experience, I was most skeptical about healing. I had years of study, omniverous 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 charlatinism."

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.

Author's Bio: 

My bio summarizes my ongoing search for ever more ways to peel the onion of life's resistances, to reach the knowing (with the inner knowing of truth which has the feel of rightness) that we are all cells in the body of the Infinite Source.

While my unique area of expertise is spiritual awareness and healing, my principal work is through wholistic healing – addressing spirit, relationships (with other people and the environment), mind, emotions and body. I am using WHEE, a potent self-healing method, with children and adults who are dealing with PTSD and other forms of stress, psychological and physical pain, low self-esteem, cravings and other issues.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, ABIHM, is a wholistic psychiatric psychotherapist who blends in his therapy elements from intuitive and spiritual awareness, spiritual healing (as in Reiki and Therapeutic Touch), WHEE - Wholistic Hybrid derived from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, imagery and relaxation (psychoneuroimmunology), dream analysis, and other approaches. Dr. Benor has taught this spectrum of methods internationally for 35 years to people involved in wholistic, intuitive, and spiritual approaches to caring, health and personal development.

Dr. Benor founded The Doctor-Healer Network in England and North America. He is the author of Healing Research, Volumes I-III and many articles on wholistic, spiritual healing. He is the editor and publisher of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Healing and Caring - Online and moderator of , a major informational website on spiritual awareness, healing and CAM research.

He appears internationally on radio and TV. He is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, Founder and Immediate Past Coordinator for the Council for Healing, a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of spiritual healing, and for many years on the advisory boards of the journals, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Subtle Energies (ISSSEEM), Frontier Sciences, the Advisory Council of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychotherapy (ACEP), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and the Advisory Board of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine (UK), Core reviewer for BioMed Central, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Online.

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