Like many other invisible phenomena, “energy healing” challenges the dominant materialistic worldview. Clinical trials of various types of energy medicine and energy psychology have shown promising results (e.g. Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Thought Field Therapy, etc.), but the term “energy” is puzzling because the underlying mechanisms of these therapies remain unknown and it does not appear to be what physics understands as energy. As a result, most energy therapies are considered suspect by Western medicine.
There are countless stories about the potential of these therapies, resulting in everything from mild pain alleviation to miraculous healings. Of course, what we presently refer to as miracles may, with a great deal of additional research, become tomorrow’s mainstream. Imagine a world where what’s considered miraculous today – such as spontaneous remission of deadly diseases – would be the norm. What a radically different world that would be. This vision is one of our motivations for exploring the exciting realm of energy medicine through the lens of science.
So what is energy healing? Is energy medicine real? And what are the workings behind remote healing?
To help suggest answers to these questions, let’s look at Masaru Emoto’s work on the effects of positive vs. negative intentions on water structure.
Starting in 1994, Emoto began photographing the crystalline structure of water and ice in different settings. He suggested that intentions impacted the crystalline structure of frozen water. Positive emotions sent to ice seemed to make the crystals more harmonious, while negative emotions made them take a chaotic form. Since adult humans consist of around 70% water, one could extrapolate the results into interpreting the effects of intention on the human body.
However, while the remarkable results caught the attention of the general public, it was not adequately studied from a scientific perspective. For instance, there was no “no intention” control condition indicating the default state for ice crystals. Besides, the photos used to prove the point was selected from a large pool – so it was hard to tell how often harmonious crystals occurred.
Effects of intention on ice… at a distance
To investigate whether the astonishing results from the original study could be replicated under stricter conditions, Dean Radin from IONS conducted a double-blind study version of the experiment together with Masaru Emoto, Gail Hayssen, and Takashige Kizu in 2006. (Double-Blind Test of the Effects of Distant Intention on Water Crystal Formation)
The hypothesis was that positive intentions could alter the crystalline structure of frozen water from at a distance.
As part of a workshop led by Emoto in Japan, an audience of about 2,000 people focused their intentions on water samples in the IONS lab in California. The samples were placed in the IONS electromagnetically shielded chamber. As controls, water samples from the same source were set aside in a different location at IONS; this part of the design was not mentioned to Emoto in advance.
The water was sent to Emoto’s lab in Japan without revealing which samples were intentional or controls, and then photos of ice crystals made from the two kinds of water were taken. The photos were then judged based on their aesthetic appeal by 100 independent participants. The result? Ice crystals from the intentionally treated water were assessed as significantly more beautiful than the control crystals (odds against chance of a thousand to one), in alignment with what Emoto had previously reported. In this double-blind, distant version of Emoto’s experiment, rather than resulting in visually obvious differences in water structure as Emoto had reported, the absolute magnitude of the effect in our study was very small, requiring the use of statistics to quantitatively compare the judges’ aesthetic assessments.
The wine experiment
Similar studies have been performed with chocolate, tea, and wine. In the study Intention as a Non-Local Variable in Consciousness Research, the taste of intentionally treated wine was compared to untreated “control” wine. This experiment was conducted in an informal setting and the participants were allowed to compare notes, which may have introduced some bias. The taste test results were thus collected for each group of people rather than on an individual basis. It turned out that 11 out of 12 groups preferred the taste of the intentionally treated wine above the untreated!
Things get really interesting when we ask ourselves: was the perceived taste improvement due to increased harmony on a molecular level, or some other, yet unknown mechanism? We do not know but these are the kinds of questions we are continuing to pursue..
Can intention boost the mood-enhancing effects of chocolate?
In 2007, Radin et al. continued along the same track by investigating the effects of intentionally enhanced chocolate on mood. Chocolate is known for its mood-lifting properties. On a chemical level, this can be attributed to components like anandamide and phenylethylamine.
Could exposing the chocolate to good intentions further increase its mood-enhancing effects? In the study, 62 participants were asked to eat samples of dark chocolate daily for 3 days. Under double-blind conditions, half of them ate intentionally treated chocolate, and half ate ordinary chocolate (68% cocoa in both cases). The intentions, provided by a Mongolian shaman and separately by a Buddhist monk, was specified as “An individual who consumes this chocolate will manifest optimal health and function at physical, emotional and mental levels, and in particular will enjoy an increased sense of energy, vigor, and well-being.”
The results revealed that, after 3 days of eating one ounce of chocolate a day, mood improved significantly more in the group enjoying the intentionally treated chocolate as compared to the untreated control chocolate (p = 0.04).
The double-blind design of this experiment ruled out placebo expectation, so it appeared that intention alone caused a perceptible difference in the participants’ mood.
Summing it up
These 3 experiments suggest that positive intention improves both the aesthetic and the gastronomical experience of water and foods. Intention seems to harmonize the molecular structure through subtle energies. This implies that mind does indeed impact matter, and that the standard model of physics needs to expand to account for this ineffable yet powerful force.
Additional follow-up studies looking at the same ideas: does intention affect mood upon drinking tea, growth of plants, and viability of stem cells are listed on Dean Radin’s publications page.