by Robert A. Charman
(Published in Society for Psychical Research Paranormal Review, No 55 p 3-7, July 2010)
In 2008 Gronowicz et al. reported on an experiment demonstrating the positive effects of a form of radiation on human cells. This experiment was completely unlike the usual studies performed at the Departments of Surgery and Orthopaedics at the Connecticut Health Center, and the results challenge scientific assumptions as to how the world works.
The two-year-long study consisted of growing separate cultures of bone cells (osteoblasts), tendon cells (tenocytes), and fibroblasts (cells that synthesize the soft tissue matrix under the skin and are essential to wound healing) and plating out each type of cell into three experimental cultures. One culture was to receive radiation, one to act as the untreated control, and the other to receive sham-radiation. The question the experiment was designed to answer was whether those cells exposed to the radiation would be stimulated to proliferate more quickly during the experimental period than those in the control and sham radiated cultures. The plates were brought out of the incubator, ring clamped onto 15-inch-high stands mounted on the laboratory bench top, exposed, or not, to ten minutes of radiation on separate days over two weeks and returned to the incubator. Standard laboratory assays were performed at the end of the first week and second week to assess the rate of cell proliferation. This experimental procedure was repeated many times over many samples.
The findings were clear cut. When compared, the proliferation rates for cells in cultures exposed to radiation were consistently and significantly greater than those in the control cultures and those exposed to sham radiation. The rates for the latter two groups were almost indistinguishable. Two exposures per week over two weeks were enough to stimulate a significant degree of proliferation, and increasing the frequency of exposure in some groups to four or five per week for two weeks increased cell proliferation to maximum response.
The findings of this study from a reputable institution with a proven research record in investigating cellular reactions would be accepted without question if the cells had been irradiated by, say, infrared or red light, as absorption of such frequencies is known to increase the rate of cell metabolism and consequent cell proliferation. The study would be taken as providing further confirmation of many earlier laboratory studies and clinical trials on wound healing to that effect.
There are, therefore, no valid reasons to dismiss these findings when informed that the “radiation agent” under test was not the application of a known physical agent but the application of directed subjective intention across space by three registered nurses who had been trained in the healing technique known as Therapeutic Touch (TT). In this study, the practitioners first “centered” their minds into a healing mindset, held their hands four inches away from each culture plate on its 15-inch stand and directed positive intention for the good health of the cells in each culture for ten minutes per session. The sham healers, consisting of technicians from other departments, were taught to perform the same movements, but were not informed of the purpose of the experiment and had no knowledge of TT. They had to count backwards from 1000 during each ten-minute-long session to prevent any directed thought.
Follow-up studies are now in progress to determine which of the key cellular reactions involved in cell proliferation seem most responsive to TT. In their discussion, the authors refer to previous studies investigating cellular responses to directed healing intention. One study (Kiang et al., 2005) found increases in intracellular calcium ion concentrations, known to stimulate cell metabolic rates when exposed to ‘bioenergy induction’. A study using Reiki practitioners found increased survival and growth of heat-shocked bacterial cultures compared to controls (Rubik et al., 2006). Yu et al. (2003) found that cultures of PC3, a human prostate cancer cell line, showed a significantly decreased growth rate during 48 hours of sustained healing intention by a Buddhist Zen Master, compared to controls. In a review of studies assessing the effect of the application of “external qi” on cancer cell cultures derived from breast, liver, lung, and bone marrow, Chen (2004) found significant inhibition of cancer cell proliferation. Such findings imply that directed healing intention, under various belief systems including “bioenergies” or “external qi,” can have a measurable effect on cells and somehow stimulate healthy cells that would be involved in bodily repair and inhibit abnormal cancer cell activity.
In sum, this study provides strong confirmation of objective, measurable effects reported from many previous laboratory studies that have employed directed subjective intention on living systems. For example, those performed on mouse skin wound healing (Grad et al., 1961), salt-stressed seed germination (Grad, 1964), bacterial growth (Nash, 1984), plant growth (Sakani, 1989), salt-stressed seed germination and plant growth (Scofield & Hodges, 1991) and enzyme reaction rates (Smith, 1972), are particularly well known. Taking these seven experiments alone, if the agent being tested had been a recognized growth factor or enzyme reaction accelerator, the findings would have been accepted without question. (For critical reviews of the laboratory and clinical trial research literature, see Jonas and Crawford  and Benor .)
The positive findings from these laboratory studies lend strong support for Dossey’s (2000) argument that as healing intention has been shown to accelerate the rate of tissue healing, doctors should be trained to give healing from intake at accident and emergency wards onwards, in addition to giving orthodox medical care. If the concept of including healing intention in medical care was adopted, healers could become valuable members of NHS staff on economic grounds alone. These studies support the claim that directed healing intention is a therapeutic agent in its own right. This hypothesis could be tested by monitoring physiological changes in unconscious patients receiving healing compared to controls. These findings also imply that well-documented case histories and clinical trials demonstrating marked symptom relief and, in some cases, unexpectedly rapid tissue healing and/or apparent remission of the disease process itself after receiving healing, cannot be dismissed as attributable to placebo response only (see Jonas and Crawford , Benor  and Harvey  for extended discussions of this). According to this hypothesis, when a patient attends a healer, any clinical improvement that would not otherwise have been expected may result from a combined, beneficial synergy of the direct effect of healing intention together with a placebo response. Regarding the latter, healers have noted repeatedly that outright skeptics who profess no belief in “faith healing” have responded well to it, much against their expectations (Manning, 1995).
The Problem for Science
The positive outcome of these laboratory studies places us in an acute dilemma, because in our present scientific understanding of how the world works we can offer no explanation for such an apparent cause and effect. In the view of orthodox science such findings cannot be due to any hypothesized effect of subjective intention, whether as “channellers” of “healing energy” or as generators of “bioenergy” or “external qi” energy, because the former belief can have no external effect, and evidence offered for the existence of the latter is hotly disputed because it is considered impossible in principle. Seto’s (1992) findings of a low-frequency magnetic field being emitted from the hands of healers during the healing mindset, but which is otherwise absent, needs replication. From the scientific viewpoint the most likely explanation must be that an undetected physical agent has been present in each case.
The physical sciences in general, and the neurosciences in particular, reject subjective intention as a causal agent of external effect for a very good reason. No such agent has ever been detected and no physiological mechanism for producing such an effect has been found. The eyes, for example, contain no mechanism by which they can project rays towards a target. The bioelectrical energies generated by brain activity, which are measured in microwatts at best, are so feeble that the very faint electromagnetic field permeating through the skull requires highly sensitive equipment for its detection. The outside world, as constructed by the visual and other brain processes that generate our visual experience, is an internal mental construct that is good enough to allow us to move about in, and bodily act upon, this perceived world. But that world, itself, has no “awareness” of our visual experiencing of it, and its observable behavior indicates that it remains indifferent to our awareness. Screaming with frustration at some DIY disaster or a valuable smashed vase does not psychically energize these physical components to re-assemble at our will. If we could do this then stone walls would not a prison make and the external world would become a chaotic conflict zone of competing intentions.
But, agreeing that this is so does not solve our dilemma. If, through gritted skeptical teeth, the findings of these laboratory studies are accepted as valid, then we have to accept that our present worldview of how things work, including ourselves, is incomplete. In fact, we know our understanding is incomplete because it cannot account for the existence of individual consciousness. Neurophysiology, based firmly upon the known physical properties of physics and chemistry, is a self-contained explanatory model that provides a remarkably complete account of how the physical brain works right down to the level of quantum chemistry – but it finds no trace of consciousness. The various branches of psychology provide insights into how our conscious and subconscious processes work, from abstract thought to social interactions and raw emotions, but it finds no trace of synaptic activity. Neither model needs to include reference to the other because neither predicates the other.
Through recent advances in neuroimaging, the crossover discipline of neuropsychology can say with increasing confidence that a mental activity of “A” depends upon normal functioning of brain area(s) “B,” and if brain area(s) “B” are injured then the mental activity “A” will be impaired. Neuropsychology finds brain function and mental function inseparable, but the bioelectrochemical processes of neuro-physiology remain obstinately physical and continue operating when consciousness is absent. Neuro-psychology provides ever more accurate evidence of brain-mind correlation without explanation.
Is There a Possible Solution?
LeShan (1974; 1976; 2009) argues strongly that if we accept the anecdotal, clinical, and laboratory-based evidence for the existence of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis and healing, in other words the operation of a psi faculty, then we need to model a reality in which such a faculty exists and such events can occur. He has proposed that there are at least two realities. One is our everyday reality, based upon living in a physical world of space and time, separate bodies, mass, motion, gravity, action and reaction, etc., where cause and effect rules. In the explanatory framework of this reality, including the wider Einsteinian world of spacetime relativity and the speed of light as the limiting factor in the transfer of information, consciousness remains inexplicable and psi phenomena impossible. This reality, therefore, cannot be the only reality.
Based upon experiences described by healers, mediums and mystics, LeShan posits another reality which he has termed “Clairvoyant Reality.” This reality is experienced in an altered state of consciousness in which everyday separateness disappears into an experience of “oneness” with what was previously “the other.” It is in this reality that psi phenomena, such as telepathy and healing, occur. Even in everyday life, our consciousness may occasionally slip into this clairvoyant reality of oneness, especially when absorbed in something, whether meditation, music, a view, creating a piece of art, devising a scientific experiment, or during intellectual inquiry when a “eureka” moment of understanding occurs. Clairvoyant reality, however, takes consciousness as a given, which still leaves its existence in an apparently physical universe unexplained.
Many have now turned to the counter-intuitive properties of the quantum world for explanation (Penrose, 1996; Nadeau & Kafatos, 2001; Radin, 2006). This world does not include the concept of cause and effect but statistical probabilities that “X” or “Y” might occur. Particles can be in two places at once and exhibit properties of both particles and waves according to what the detector is designed to detect. Entangled particles remain in immediate contact, even if traveling away from each other at the speed of light towards either end of the universe. If the spin of one is reversed, then so is the spin of the other at the same instant. Distance, time, and the speed of light are not relevant factors in their relationship. Space is not an empty vacuum but full of restless quantum energy. In experiments collapsing the sum of unknowable quantum possibilities contained in what has been termed the probability wave, wavefunction superposition, or state vector, into a recognizable something in our world, the outcome depends upon what the detector is designed to detect, usually with properties of particles or waves. It has been proposed that the quantum world is the source of our conscious being because the hypothesized function of the brain is to act as a form of quantum detector that determines the collapse of the state vector into the qualia of conscious experience. A quantum property the other detectors are not designed to detect so it has remained unsuspected.
In this hypothesis, the matter-versus-mind argument is invalid because the mode of detection is the key. Psi in its various manifestations is a latent mental function derived from this source, which, like all abilities, some people can utilize more easily and effectively than others. If we accept LeShan’s argument, to enter into a mental state of clairvoyant reality may be the precondition that enables directed intentionality to exert a measurable effect on, for example, enzyme reaction rates, seed germination, plant growth, cellular proliferation and improved tissue healing, because it is acting where psi intention and these metabolic processes operate at quantum level. At present this is just speculation, but maybe it is pointing in the right direction for future exploration.
Whatever the answer, the psi effect of directed intention as demonstrated by this particular experiment exists. To deny this because we cannot account for it is just as illogical as to deny the existence of our own conscious experiencing because we cannot, as yet, provide a satisfactory account for it. These two major anomalies in our present understanding of the world are here to stay. One day they will be anomalies no more as a change of understanding takes them into the mainstream.
Robert Charman is a retired physical therapy lecturer whose specialities were neuro-rehabilitation and biophysics. The former gave him an enduring interest in the mind/brain problem and the latter an interest in the role of the currents and fields generated by cells and tissues. He was founder/chair of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Energy Medicine (ACPEM), and is Chair of the Confederation of Healing Organisations, both UK organizations. He was editor of Complementary Therapies for Physical Therapists (2000); has published a review of EEG and fMRI evidence for direct brainmind-to-brainmind communication (J.Soc.Psych.Res download www.spr.ac.uk), and articles reviewing evidence for telepathy, remote viewing, psychokinesis, healing intention on living systems, and the mind/brain relationship. On the latter his position is that correlation should not be confused with explanation.
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