Challenges In Healing Experiments | May 2006

FMBR Editorial: Aug, 2006

Challenges In Healing Experiments

William C. Gough

We have been doing research for many years in areas such as homeopathy, acupuncture, energy medicine and parapsychology. I have been pondering whether the scientific models being used to evaluate such research are too limiting. Most research experiments that evaluate subtle energy are based upon the classical physics model of "cause and effect." Such a "Newtonian" model has proven extremely effective for the study of inanimate objects. It is also the model used for studies designed to test allopathic drugs. You have a disease -- the cause of your symptoms. You take a drug to have an effect and eliminate the symptom -- and then you address possible side effects. Could this single cause-effect model lead to misleading and inappropriate conclusions when applied to living systems? Such systems function in a holistic manner. Wouldn't it be better in our research to approach living systems using a network model. You disturb one part and all parts of the interconnected system change -- the so called side effects are now an integral part of the model.

A network reflects dynamic interaction patterns between its parts that are related to one another by certain rules. Nodes are points of interconnection among the parts. Hubs are super-nodes, i.e., the most highly interconnected nodes. Making changes at the nodes and especially at the hubs will change functions in the rest of the network. The network nature of a human being is highlighted by the acupuncture meridians and points, with the chakras representing major hubs. In addition water could be considered a hub molecule in most biochemical reactions in human beings, animals, plants. Dr. Iris R. Bell has suggested that information encoded in water, as in homeopathy remedies, might be causing informational changes in the water's network patterns of the body, but not in the source molecules themselves. Encoded water could deliver its information by seeding cascading changes throughout the body's water. Thus, the water may serve as a network hub for biochemical reactions throughout the body.

Let's apply the network model to the whole human community. When we shift from a Newtonian world view to a quantum physics world view a series of factors enter - - the interaction of an observer becomes an essential element. In addition, there exists a connectiveness between parts. This interconnectiveness in quantum physics is called nonlocality -- a universal property by which apparently separate items are still entangled over space and time. You are all familiar with the worldwide network of information sites on the internet. In an analogous manner a human being can be considered an informational site. In effect we are nodes that are interconnected via a non-local Web of quantum entanglement. This could represent the network over which long distance healing and intercessory prayer travel.

A recent large medical study by Benson, Dusek, et. al. found that prayers offered by strangers from a distance had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery. The study begun almost a decade ago involved more than 1,800 patients in six hospitals at a cost of $2.4 million. By the current scientific model this study was "rigorously designed" with the patients broken into three groups. Two were prayed for; the third was not. The conclusion of the Benson/Dusek study was that long distant intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from a coronary artery bypass graft.

This and other earlier studies that evaluate the healing effects of "intercessory" prayer from a distance do not support the premise that such prayer is beneficial. Yet there are many studies including a coronary care study that support the positive effects of prayer. So let's look at a positive study that I am familiar with and then explore the differences in scientific approach between the two studies.

A double-blind randomized study of distant healing on a population with advanced AIDS was carried out by Fred Sicher, Elisabeth Targ, et. al. The healers represented many different healing and spiritual traditions, had "an average of 17 years of experience and had previously treated an average of 106 patients at a distance." The Sicher/Targ study concluded that there were positive therapeutic effects of distant healing. The results showed "decreased medical utilization, fewer and less severe new illnesses, and improved mood for the treated group compared with the controls."

The Benson/Dusek study used a large groups of heterogeneous inexperienced participants who were instructed to include the phrase "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications." The study was based upon "congregational prayer" from three Christian faith communities. In comparison the Sicher/Targ study selected experienced healers from various backgrounds who chose their own techniques. The ability to sharply focus one's intention to affect a person at a distant location is a skill that these individuals spent a lifetime developing. They have the ability to connect to a "site" on the quantum entanglement Web. The experienced healers that I know focus upon a feeling state of love and connect to the "node" of the heart. Much anecdotal evidence in support of prayer comes from individuals praying for a loved one with whom they have a strong connection and to whom they send sincere heart felt healing intentions.


In the Benson/Dusek study the participants were given only the patients' first names and the first initials of their last names -- an incomplete "web site address." This is probably not a serious obstacle to an experienced healer who knows how to manipulate the search criteria of the quantum entanglement Web. However, for an inexperienced person it might nullify their ability to connect and provide healing. In the Sicher/Targ study each healer received a packet that included a 5x7-inch color photograph. In subtle energy healing practices a full name, photograph, or DNA sample (like a strand of hair) normally serves as an "address" for non-local distant healing.

The tradition for scientific experimentation is to look for events that are precisely defined and testable. However, if the experiments are the type that are highly sensitive to the beliefs and expectations of the experimenters this undercuts the objectivity so desired by science. If the results of the experiment are generated, not by the subjects as individuals, but by the whole community involved with the experiment, then this effect becomes inevitable. Hence, we must recognize in the design of such experiments that we are dealing with a network of our own interconnected communal natures.

William C. Gough, FMBR Chairman of the Board.

To send comments by email regarding this editorial to Bill Gough click here.


Aczel, Amir D., "Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery in Physics", NY: Four Walls Eight Windows. 2002.

Bell, Iris R; "Science, Logic, and Emotion: Evaluating the Allopathic Worldview and Its impact on Homeopathic Research," 2006 Joint American Homeopathic Conference Program, San Jose, CA, April 7-11,2006, Appendix 2. (Also Audio CD #320, Conference Recording Service, Berkeley CA,

Benson, Herbert, Dusek, Jeffery A., et. al., "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in Cardiac Bypass Patients: A Multicenter Randomized Trial of Uncertainty and Certainty of Receiving Intercessory Prayer," American Heart Journal, Vol. 151, No. 4, April 2006, pp. 934-942.

Byrd, RC, "Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population," South Medical Journal, Vol 81, 1988, pp.826-829.

Carey, Benedict; "Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer," The New York Times, March 31, 2006.

Dossey, Larry; Prayer Is Good Medicine, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

Dossey, Larry: Healing Words:The Power of Prayer and the Practice of medicine., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993,

Lamb, Gregory M.; "Study Highlights Difficulty of Isolating Effects of Prayer on Patients," The Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 2006, p.13.

Pease, Marshall, "The Communities of Man", Foundation for Mind-Being Research Editorial, May 1988.

Peat, F. David, Einstein's Moon: Bell's Theorem and the Curious Quest for Quantum Reality, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1990.

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