The Heart of Healing – The Deeper Meaning of Healing, by Stephan A. Schwartz
This powerful story about what lies at the hear of healing moved me to tears and I felt that I must offer it on our website as an example of a story that carries the essence of what healing means. I believe that it truly reflects what lies at the very heart of all healing when ego disappears on love is there is. This story is reprinted with permission of both author and publisher.
The author of this essay is Stephan A. Schwartz, a dear friend and colleague. He is a regular contributor to the Explore Journal and is the editor of the daily web publication The Schwartzreport (http://www.schwartzreport.net), which concentrates on trends that will shape the future, an area of research he has been working in since the mid-1960s.
Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, Volume 10, Issue 1 , Pages 10-12, January 2014
We were studying healing. Our research was simple in concept. We were asking 14 men and women, seven of them experienced healers using techniques ranging from evangelical Christian laying-on-of-hands, to channeling space people, and seven of them volunteers who had never formally tried to express therapeutic intention—healing—to beneficially affect the well-being of another person. They were being asked to treat 14 men and women suffering from everything from migraines to cancer to whom they had been randomly assigned.1
They could use any technique they wished during their approximately 45-minute session but were asked to try not to touch the recipient’s body. While they were expressing healing, small sealed vials of water were strapped to their hands. In the experiment, these little bottles, the same kind of rubber topped bottle used for the injections we all know from getting “shots” in a doctor’s office, were filled with very pure triple-distilled water—to obviate the possibility of getting false results as a product of pollutants in the water.
The bottles were held in place by a tube of white cotton into which the bottle was inserted. Velcro patches took the place of a knot to hold the bottle in place on the palm of the healing practitioner’s hand. One bottle was on their hand for five minutes, one for 10 minutes, and a third one for 15 minutes. There was also a unique control vial placed in the session room, and another one kept in a nearby building.
We were measuring whether there was a difference between the treated vial and its controls at a specific wave number, one associated with the molecular bond that links one molecule of water to another. The technique of measurement was one of the most widely used in water research—infrared spectrophotometry. A small sample of the water from each bottle was extracted with a fresh syringe and placed in the device, which was cleaned after each measurement. A beam of infrared light was passed through it. Our first hypothesis was that such a differential would be found.
Our second hypothesis was that the longer the bottle’s exposure on the healer’s palm, the more intense the effect.
This protocol had been developed, and the protocol and hypotheses, following our standard policy, were sent out before the study was undertaken to other researchers, including several prominent skeptics, who were each asked to tear the protocol apart if they could. When we published, we wanted people to focus on the results, not drag us into the kind of battle that haunts parapsychology, where positive results are obfuscated over some putative methodological flaw. To give a sense of the lengths to which we accommodated critics, when one skeptic said that the oil used to lubricate the syringes might cause the effect—something that was actually impossible—we nonetheless ran a series of tests to prove this. For me, my focus was entirely on the rigor of the science. But, as I was to learn, there is a lot more to healing than P values.
Bob was one of the 14 people selected to participate as a recipient. He was 25 years old, sallow, and very sick. Diagnosed as being HIV-positive 18 months earlier, he was now in a full-blown AIDS stage, and his once handsome features were disfigured by the beginnings of the cancerous Kaposi Sarcoma lesions. It was 1986; the cocktail did not exist yet.
Bob was scheduled for a Tuesday morning. In order to duplicate the environment under which healing typically takes place, the sessions were held at Roslyn Bruyere’s Healing Light Center in Glendale, California. By the luck of the draw, Bob had been matched with Ben, a 40-year-old television producer, with a fundamentalist Christian background, and an almost aggressive masculinity. Ben had never tried to do healing before and was admittedly homophobic.
When we saw the pairing, we realized that we had a dilemma. We had not been told by the independent group who had selected the patient pool that an AIDS afflicted recipient had been included, and by design, the healers were not told in advance the medical condition of the recipient. It was their choice whether to ask, or not ask, their healing recipient about their condition. However, AIDS at that time was very scary; HIV-positive people were being treated like pariahs, its potential for transmission was unknown, and the disease had a terminal outcome universally. This was 1986, and it was a different world then. We knew from his pre-interview that Ben was not only homophobic but concerned as well about the contagiousness of AIDS. Could we be ethical and not tell Ben? Was it fair to Bob to be assigned to a healer who found his lifestyle personally repugnant and who was afraid of his disease? While Bob and Ben both filled out a long series of questionnaires, we wrestled with these issues, and finally decided that Ben had to be told.
When he heard the news, he blanched and asked to be left alone. He walked into the small room where his healing session was to take place and closed the door, apparently forgetting that everything in the room was being videotaped. The tape would later show Ben pacing up and down as he struggled with his inner fears and demons. After about five minutes he came out saying, “We came here to do healing, let’s go.” He smiled at Bob, and did not waiver, even when he saw that Bob, who had been sitting while he answered the questionnaire, could hardly rise from his chair.
“It’s just my arthritis,” he said to Ben, with a wan self-deprecating smile. “Whenever I sit for more than 10 minutes my body locks up.” Ben hesitated, then visibly gathered himself to his purpose, walked across the room, and helped Bob rise from his chair. Bob leaned heavily on Ben as he struggled to get onto the massage table we were using. “I’m sorry,” was all he said. For a moment, both of them were silent, and then Ben began to slowly run his hands over Bob, about five inches above his body. “How long have you had this?” Ben asked.
“I probably became HIV-positive a few weeks after I came out,” Bob replied. “It was like some kind of punishment, I thought at first.” The two men locked eyes and then glanced away. “What are the major problems?” Ben asked, struggling to keep his voice under control.
“Oh, God, I don’t know. There are so many things. Right now though I guess it’s the arthritis, I used to be a dancer before … before all this. And I’m cold. God, I’m cold all the time.”
“Cold?” Ben asked in surprise considering the upper 70° temperature of Los Angeles.
“Yeah. I can’t get warm. It’s the AIDS, it screws up your circulation. I haven’t been warm in oh, maybe four months. Even when I take hot baths, it only lasts for a few minutes. I’m just cold, deep down inside all the time. It’s horrible.”
For the next 30 minutes, Ben worked on Bob with an intensity that made conversation superfluous. Even though he was lying down, and the video camera was 15 feet away, it was easy to see that the experience was an intense one for Bob.
His eyes closed, and his body gradually relaxed, his breathing coming through his mouth, which was open as if he were asleep. Yet he was awake and spoke words so softly only Ben could hear them. Ben worked carefully, slowly going over Bob’s body, sometimes moving his hands as if he were pulling something invisible yet thick and clinging out of Bob’s body, pulling it out and throwing it away with a flick of his hand. Finally, it came to an end and he stood away from the body on the table, looking down on Bob. As he worked tears ran silently down Ben’s cheeks.
After a minute or two, Bob opened his eyes. He looked like a man who was slightly stunned. It took a moment more for him to collect himself, then without a care, with easy grace, he rose from the table and was half way across the room when he suddenly stopped. He looked at Ben and, then, looked down at his feet. With a broad smile he did a little dance step. Both men began to laugh, and Ben went across and hugged Bob.
“Thank you, Ben. Thank you so much.”
“I don’t think God punishes people by giving them AIDS,” Ben said. “I might have thought that once, but now I think maybe His punishment is reserved for people whose hearts are closed to a brother’s suffering.”
As Bob came out of the room, he turned to the researcher who was monitoring the experiment and said, “I’m warm. For the first time in four months, I feel warm inside.”
Was it all just subjective, a kind of placebo effect? An hour later, when we examined them, we found that each of three vials from the healing session was changed when compared with a control water sample. The way the individual molecules of water were linked was different. In the weeks that followed, we also discovered that not only Ben’s water samples had experienced this same change but others as well. It did n’ot seem to matter what technique was used, and to our surprise, we found that the naive healers (those like Ben who had never done healing before) taken as a group produced significant results, although not as powerful a difference as those who had some kind of training and used their healing skills with some regularity.
It seems that healing, like other human skills, works best when an individual’s potential is developed through discipline, and they perform this act of service to another regularly.
The big surprise was that although samples from all three time periods—five, 10, and 15 minutes—were changed, there was no greater effect to be found in the five-minute samples than the samples taken after longer exposure. This would suggest, although this is speculative and preliminary, that healing, like many other human functions, is a pulse phenomenon. During a healing session, it does not take place as a continuing event, sort of like putting constant strain on a rope to pull a car out of a ditch, but more like the swings of a hammer; there is a period of buildup, a moment of discharge, then a period of relaxation.
We also stayed in touch with those who had been the recipients in the healing sessions, particularly Bob. He reported that his arthritis had returned, although it was not as bad. To him though, the most important effect of his healing session with Ben was that he continued to be warm. What he had called “the chill of the grave” did not return to torment him. Three months later Bob contracted pneumonia. A week later he was dead.
Bob’s death forced me to reconsider what I thought about healing. We all expect the big finish, the lame child who throws away his crutches and walks again. Bob and Ben taught me that sometimes healing is just warmth, and a change of attitude.
I consider it one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in four decades of research.
Schwartz S, De Mattei R, Brame Jr. E, Spottiswoode SPJ. Subtle Energies. 1990;1:1. A preliminary report on the research was presented at the 29th Annual Parapsychological Association Annual Meetings, 5–9 August 1986. See Proceedings pp. 257–282. An abstract of that paper is published in Research in Parapsychology (Meutchen: Scarecrow, 1987). The paper was also presented as an Invited Paper at the Society for Scientific Exploration Sixth Annual Meeting 29 May 1987, and a slightly edited version was presented at the Federation of American Chemical Societies Meetings 1987, and an abstract of that version is to be found in the Proceedings for that meeting.