PSYCHIC AND SPIRITUAL HEALING
with STANLEY KRIPPNER, Ph.D.
JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. With me today is Dr. Stanley Krippner. Dr. Krippner is one of the country's foremost scholars in the field of parapsychology and consciousness studies, and we'll be discussing "Psychic and Spiritual Healing." Stanley is a professor of psychology at Saybrook Institute in San Francisco, where he is also the director of the Center for Consciousness Studies. He is a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and also a past president of the Parapsychological Association. He is the co-author, with Dr. Alberto Villoldo, of two books in the area of psychic and spiritual healing, Healing States, and also The Realms of Healing. Welcome, Stanley.
STANLEY KRIPPNER, Ph.D.: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here. I'm sorry I had to stop short a little bit enumerating all of your many credentials, and the numerous other books and undoubtedly hundreds of other articles that you've written. I know you have an enormous depth, particularly in the fields of psychic and spiritual healing. I think it's important, in starting out, that we point out a fact that isn't often discussed when people think of healing, and that is that paranormal forms of healing have been studied in laboratories, with impressive results.
KRIPPNER: Yes. The reason that they go into the laboratories is that there are a number of problems in studying patients who go to a faith healer, or who have been worked on by a folk healer in some foreign country. Many of these people get well, but you don't know if the recovery was due to chance, what we call a spontaneous remission; whether it was due to the powers of suggestion; or whether it was due to their work with an allopathic physician before they went to the alternative healer. So a number of experiments have been done that look at laboratory-controlled attempts to change living organisms in some way or another. The best way to talk about that is perhaps to start with the work of Bernard Grad, who is a biologist and physiologist in Canada.
MISHLOVE: At McGill University.
KRIPPNER: That's right. What he did was to take injured rats, and to have healers do a laying on of hands on the rats. He compared this with medical students who did laying on of hands with the rats, and he found out that the healers' rats recovered from their wounds much more quickly than did the medical students' rats.
MISHLOVE: Now laying on of hands would mean that the healers were actually touching these rats.
KRIPPNER: That's right.
MISHLOVE: And what we're looking at is a wound that was created surgically by the researchers, and then they measure how rapidly these wounds would heal.
KRIPPNER: That's true. Now of course it's possible that the healers had some type of chemical in their hands which facilitated the healing, and so what Dr. Grad did then was to move to simply having the healer put his or her hands around a vial of water. Usually they were wearing gloves, so whatever heat or chemical they had in their hands could not affect the water directly. Then there were control vials of water that were just left there, or that non-healers held. This water was used to water seeds, and the person doing the watering didn't know which came from the healers' water, and which came from the control water. This was done over a several-week period. Dr. Grad did several experiments, mainly with barley seeds, and by and large the results showed that the barley seeds which received the healers' water had more rootage, more foliage, and taller plants than did the control seeds, which also did well, but not as well.
MISHLOVE: It seems to me I recall another study in which he had people who were psychologically disturbed -- very depressed, even psychotic people -- try and heal the water, or treat the water, and the plants that were nurtured with that water were stunted in their growth.
KRIPPNER: Yes, that's right. That was very intriguing. Unfortunately he didn't do enough of that type of study to yield what I would call a clear-cut result. But again, anybody could try to repeat that, because the results were so intriguing.
MISHLOVE: Grad's work is still considered the classic experiments in the area of psychic healing, I think.
KRIPPNER: Oh yes, you see them referred to in many, many places. And then a quite different type of experiment was done by Dr. Justa Smith, who had a healer work with a test tube that had enzymes in it which had been damaged by radiation. Again, the enzymes were compared with test tubes that nobody held, and test tubes that a non-healer held, and a test tube that was surrounded in an electromagnetic field. When the electromagnetic field was used, the enzymes did improve, in much the same way as did the enzymes that the healer worked with. There was a similarity there.
MISHLOVE: Suggesting that the healer might somehow be influencing the enzymes with his own or her own electromagnetic field.
KRIPPNER: That's right. Now again, not all of Dr. Smith's experiments worked. All we can say is the majority of them had that effect. And then again, quite a different line of research was done by Dolores Krieger and her associates. She is a nurse and a teacher at New York University. She did a laying on of hands without touching the patient. She used real live patients in a hospital setting, and found that the hemoglobin values increased when people did laying on of hands, but not when nurses spent extra time with the patients, or simply talked to the patients, or simply sat by the patients. But if the nurses had the intent to heal, and held their hands over the patient, the hemoglobin values did improve.
MISHLOVE: Did the patients know that this was the intent?
KRIPPNER: No, they didn't really know that that was the intent. Of course the problem with this is that it is quite unusual for a nurse to do a laying on of hands, and so maybe in some subtle way this did enhance the change within the patients. There's been a long string of replications of Dr. Krieger's work by other people, and almost all of them yielded positive results. There have also been many criticisms of Dr. Krieger's work, but the study that's going on right now by Dr. Quinn has taken into account all of the criticisms of the early work, and she is now producing what I think will be the best controlled studies when she finishes sometime within the next few months.
MISHLOVE: Do you as a parapsychologist take this body of literature to suggest that what psychic healing is, in the laboratory, when it's isolated in this fashion, is some type of mind over matter or psychokinetic effect on enzymes or living tissues or biological substances?
KRIPPNER: Well, this is one way you can interpret it. Of course we don't know if that's the same way that it goes on in real life. We don't know at all. I think one of the experiments which follows from what you're saying is an experiment one of our students at Saybrook Institute did. Douglas Dean for his doctoral dissertation had healers simply hold their hands around a test tube of water or a flask of water, and he found that there were subtle changes in the water, in the ultraviolet and/or in the infrared spectrum, and non-healers could not induce that change. He has done this now with literally hundreds of healers, and the first attempted replication of his study, by Stephen Schwartz and his associates in Los Angeles, did produce similar results. So this now is a purely physiological and physical change in, apparently, molecules of water.
MISHLOVE: In the molecular bonding of the water molecules themselves, I understand.
KRIPPNER: Yes, this is what causes the difference in the way that the light passes through. The molecular bonding appears to have been changed.
MISHLOVE: So perhaps in the future researchers along these lines will actually allow us to have a picture of the mechanism by which this healing takes place.
KRIPPNER: Or at least one of the mechanisms; I suspect maybe there's more than one. So there's a little summary of some of the work that's been done. The only other one that I would mention offhand is Dr. William Broad's work at the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio, Texas, because he has now done a dozen experiments, again having a healer work, but mainly at a distance, and very often with people trying to affect some aspect, like muscle movement or tension or relaxation or psychogalvanic skin response. His experiments have been almost always successful in terms of getting the hypothesized effect.
MISHLOVE: In other words, you might be in another room, and I might be concentrating on affecting your brain waves, or affecting your skin response, something like that. I might be getting feedback from some instruments that were connected to you.
KRIPPNER: Yes. Feedback on how well you're doing in making the change.
MISHLOVE: That's fascinating. Well, Stanley, you yourself have traveled all over the world. You've personally investigated and interacted with and become friends with healers from many, many different cultures, haven't you? Who has impressed you the most?
KRIPPNER: Oh, I would say there are a number of people who impressed me, and on the other hand, of course, there are people who haven't impressed me. As you are well aware, this field is filled with charlatans. It's filled with people who are well-meaning but deluded, who probably do more harm than good, and it's filled with people who are out to make money and don't really have the interests of their clients or their patients paramount at all.
MISHLOVE: I'm glad you brought that up.
KRIPPNER: But I think that maybe the person who has impressed me the most, for a number of reasons, would be Dr. Lawrence LeShan, and also his associate, Dr. Joyce Goodrich -- first of all because they're both psychologists and they work within the scientific paradigm; also they make it a rule not to charge money for what they do, and so all of their services have been free. Also, they have both done research in this field, and are open to further research, and they've begun to train people, so that people can go and learn the type of meditation that they feel is useful for healing. My wife has studied, for example, with them, and uses this healing training with afflicted pets and animals. It's a very beautiful meditation, because you obtain a type of oneness and a sense of love and compassion with the person or the animal that you are trying to heal.
MISHLOVE: In other words, you concentrate on merging with them.
KRIPPNER: Yes, that's right.
MISHLOVE: And LeShan finds from his clinical observations that people actually get better when another person concentrates on them in this way.
KRIPPNER: Well, at least more often than not. And again, he has done some follow-up, and has very meticulously collected some case studies on this. Now here, remember that people are coming for the healing, so we don't know how much if any psi is operating here. It might be suggestion; it might be expectancy. Both of these people are very excellent psychotherapists. It might be their therapeutic skills that are producing the change.
MISHLOVE: Psi, I might mention for our viewers who don't know, is the scientific term used by parapsychologists to refer to either an extrasensory perception effect or a psychokinetic effect.
KRIPPNER: Yes, and when you're talking about the psychokinesis, the so-called mind-over-matter effect that seems to operate in the laboratories, we don't know if this is what's happening in real life. It might be more of a telepathic effect, where the healer and the healee, or the client or the patient, are in some sort of telepathic rapport, so that the person who wants to become well is getting this message from the healer, and then is allowing his or her own self-healing mechanisms to come into play. All that we know now about the body's immune system and the endorphins and other chemicals in the brain indicates that there are many self-healing properties of the body which do much more to help a person get well than we have suspected in the past.
MISHLOVE: I imagine that when you are working with native healers in other cultures, they make use of rituals and other types of images, music, drumming, and things, that might activate these same self-healing systems, so that we needn't necessarily invoke any paranormal explanation.
KRIPPNER: That's possible. You mentioned our book Healing States a few minutes ago. In Healing States we spend quite a bit of time talking about healers in Peru and healers in Brazil, healers in Mexico and the United States,
people from native traditions. These traditions started out long before allopathic medicine came into the picture, and among poor people who have no money for allopathic practitioners these folk doctors are still available.
MISHLOVE: That's all they have.
KRIPPNER: Yes, that's all they have, and if you watch them at work you see that they're very excellent therapists. They use drama, they use suggestion, they use expectancy, they use their own charisma. And you can see that everything that they do elicits the self-healing properties of the sick person to take over.
MISHLOVE: I guess it's fair to mention that on top of that they work in a cultural milieu in which psychic functioning is not challenged necessarily; it's accepted, both by the doctor and by the patients -- which I suppose would be compatible with laboratory studies that suggest that these are psi-conducive conditions.
KRIPPNER: That's right, and in these societies all of this is taken for granted. It's not questioned. In both Healing States and The Realms of Healing, Dr. Villoldo and I spend quite a bit of time talking about Rolling Thunder, who is an intertribal medicine man who lives in Nevada. He's now retired, but when he was an active healer he would do many things along the line that you were just suggesting. One time I saw a healing ceremony where he was working with a young Indian man who was severely alcoholic. Rolling Thunder preceded the healing with ninety minutes of drumming and chanting, while that man sat in a chair, fifty people around him, all demonstrating their love for him and their care for him. And then when Rolling Thunder started to use his ceremony with the feathers and the rituals and the evoking of the Great Spirit and the sacrificial burning of raw meat, the patient really lit up, and he became very enwrapped in this whole ritualistic ceremony. And then Rolling Thunder said, "Did you hear that owl who was hooting?" Everybody said, "Oh yes, we heard that owl." I wasn't sure if there was an owl or not, but he was saying, "Well, that owl is a symbol of death, so this might be Robert's last chance to shape up. But the number of times that he hooted is a symbol of good luck, so it might be that he's going to make it this time." So that again was a superb dramatic ploy, and something that got Robert, first of all, very shaken up, and then determined that this might be the time that he had to break free of the alcoholism. And it worked. I checked into him ten months later. He was still on the wagon, and a year later he left the area and he had still not gone back to alcohol.
MISHLOVE: One of the things I notice you wrote about in Healing States was that some of these native healers will engage in the ritual chanting, and the chant may run nine solid days. It may take them years to learn a complicated chant like that. I would think that in our culture we have no idea of the kinds of states of consciousness that can be created from nine solid days of chanting a chant that takes one years to learn how to perform.
KRIPPNER: Oh yes. Some of these chants are used by Native Americans, especially for very, very serious cases of illness, and then people in the community will take turns coming and sitting with that person, and just their presence really demonstrates the care that they have for that person. I was with the Cuna Indians in Panama, from the San Blas Islands. They have many types of healers in that particular society. It's a very interesting, very complex healing system. Also they go to allopathic physicians who are in the neighborhood, so they have the best of both worlds. I talked to one of the shamans who had learned some ninety different chants, and some of those chants are so complicated they take several months to learn, and there are hundreds of chants in the tradition. He is still fairly young; he's in his forties, and he hopes that he will be able to master maybe two hundred as time goes on. There are chants for everything; some of them are several hours long. If you imagine people sitting listening to those chants, focusing on those chants, knowing that these chants are going to heal them, you can just imagine the amount of self healing that that chanting can trigger.
MISHLOVE: Up until rather recently, I would think that Western medical traditions have just sort of scoffed at all of these native healers. One gets a sense, though, that times are changing, that even mainstream Western doctors are now saying, gee, there might be something there that we should look at.
KRIPPNER: Yes. In our book Healing States we use the example of North America -- how in the early part of the twentieth century the Spirit Dance was outlawed, the Ghost Dance was outlawed, and the Sun Dance was outlawed, by the U.S. and Canadian governments. Now all the dances are back in style again; the laws have been revoked. The psychotherapists can see how these dances can keep the Native Americans from becoming alcoholics, and even can pull many of the alcoholics back into condition, after they go through these native rituals and make contact again with their roots. Also, folklorists see that here is a repertoire of very complex and very beautiful and very inspirational dance and music and ceremony that really should not be lost, just on the basic of its aesthetics, if nothing else.
MISHLOVE: Anthropologists used to say in decades past that these shamans, the healers of native tribes, were really the schizophrenic ones. Now I think they're coming around and saying no, they are in an altered state of consciousness; but they may be in a higher state of consciousness than the average person, rather than in a more disorganized state.
KRIPPNER: Yes. My friend Michael Harner has done a great deal to address that issue in his books, and we have a treatment of that issue in our book Healing States, pointing out, for example, that studies have been done with psychological tests. Many of the Native American shamans have been given psychological tests. People in their tribe have been given the tests, and you find out that shamans have more imaginative capacity than people in their tribe, but also they're more in touch with reality than people in their tribe. So they're very much at home in both worlds. That's the remarkable thing about what a shaman can do, while on the other hand the pseudo-shamans, the deluded people in the tribe who think that they're shamans but who the tribe stays away from because they don't put any trust in them, their psychological test scores are very poor. They show very poor personality integration, a very low level of functioning, and sometimes a very shaky concept of reality.
MISHLOVE: Many of the native healers, and I think across many traditions, have a kind of animistic or spiritistic world view that healing must involve removing possessing spirits from the sick person. You've observed that in Brazil and elsewhere. How do you evaluate that, Stan?
KRIPPNER: Well, exorcism is very popular among some Christian denominations in the United States. It runs rampant in the groups I've seen in Brazil, in the Afro-Brazilian movements, and there's an interesting way that you can look at that. Some of the more sophisticated of the Brazilian practitioners have told Dr. Villoldo and myself, "You know, the worst black magic is the black magic we commit against ourselves. It is the sorcery that hurts ourselves when we think negative thoughts, or we hold onto a destructive self concept, or when we allow ourself to say negative, hostile things about ourselves and the people around us, and those sentences go over and over in our mind. It is no wonder, then, that people get stomach aches and backaches and headaches with those negative thought images going around." And yes, to me that sounds like something that's sorcery, and if that can be exorcised, so much the better. If you want to call this a malevolent spirit, fine. If you want to call it negative thinking, fine. But either the spiritist or the psychotherapist, or both of them, really have to approach that negativity and get rid of it if the person's going to recover.
MISHLOVE: In other words you're taking a pragmatic point of view. If it works, then it ought to be used.
KRIPPNER: Yes, the same thing with the Brazilian belief in past lives. Most of the Brazilian healers I know do a lot of what we would call past life therapy. Now, who knows if what they're integrating is a person's past life, or a part of their current-day personality that they've distanced themselves from? In both instances a person is made whole. Something that has been repressed and has been sort of shut off is brought to attention, the value of it is experienced, and it is combined with their current level of functioning, and they become wholer and stronger as a result. Now that certainly sounds very therapeutic to me.
MISHLOVE: That might even apply in situations where the healer is actually out-and-out using fraud, such as some of the alleged cases of psychic surgery, where fraud seems to be used and then people recover.
KRIPPNER: The amazing thing is that there is a history of sleight of hand in shamanism, and sometimes the sleight of hand is used for very benign purposes. In other cases it's used to earn a buck. But sometimes, sleight of hand will be used by the shamans, especially when they do the cupping and sucking routine, and they suck on a person's skin and their mouth fills up with black fluid and they spit it out, and they say, "OK, I've sucked all the poison out of you." Usually, that's tobacco juice, and sometimes the patient knows that's tobacco juice, but that's beside the point. It's the ritual that is so important. The shaman is saying, "I have sucked that poison out of you," OK, the patient is sometimes willing to let go of what has been poisoning him or her, symbolically, and that can be very beneficial from a therapeutic point of view.
MISHLOVE: Do you think that there may be some validity to any of these unusual psychic surgery claims?
KRIPPNER: Well, the case of psychic surgery that we describe in Healing States, in Brazil with Dr. DeQuieroz, is undoubtedly surgery, because he uses a scalpel; he uses surgical instruments.
MISHLOVE: This is a medical doctor who claims that he becomes possessed by spirits, and then can perform without anesthetic.
KRIPPNER: That's right. He operates very, very quickly, and I've seen him do it. The amazing thing is, even though he uses no anesthetics, the Brazilians don't wince, they have no pain, because they know that he's a painless surgeon. Now the Americans come into the picture, who don't know this, and they writhe with pain, because they don't know that he's supposed to be painless. I've seen this happen. But in any event, it's a remarkable performance, because he works as a gynecologist three days a week, and then free of charge he works with poor people, and then some rich American tourists who do pay him, two days a week, and he does simple and sometimes more complex operations. We have a big section on him in Healing States, and that undoubtedly is surgery, although he claims it's a spirit who is directing the surgery. Some of the other stuff, like what you see in the Philippines, yes, it's mostly sleight-of-hand, but there are some cases I've seen where I would leave the question open until we can get a team of magicians, surgeons, and parapsychologists to all witness the same event and see if there's a consensus.
MISHLOVE: I think that's probably good advice -- to keep an open mind towards these possibilities. Stan, we're almost out of time now, but I wonder if in closing we can talk a little bit about what some of the common factors are in the various healing practices that you've observed, that might be useful advice or information to our own viewers.
KRIPPNER: Well, yes. I think there think there are four important factors.
MISHLOVE: We'll have to go through them quickly.
KRIPPNER: OK. We can say that the treatments are most effective when they build upon the expectation of the patient; when they use the positive personal qualities of the healer; when they empower the patient; and when the healer and the sick person share the same world view. Sometimes a technique can work if only one of those four is present. The more of those four that are present, the more quickly the person seems to recover.
MISHLOVE: I think those are very useful guidelines, because in a sense they allow a person to approach a healer from any kind of cultural perspective and see where might be value for them or for friends or other people, without necessarily having to become submerged by the belief system.
KRIPPNER: That's right, and you can take those four practices and principles, and I think they're the same with allopathic medicine. There's more in common among the alternative healers and the allopathic healers than we realize, and there's no reason why the two can't work together.
MISHLOVE: Stanley Krippner, it's been a pleasure having you with me. Thank you very much.
KRIPPNER: It was a pleasure to be here.
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