I found Bill Bengston on the internet in January 2007 while doing a search on Google. The search was for Oskar Estebany, the Hungarian healer on whose work Therapeutic Touch is based. I wanted to know if he could heal cancer, so the Google search read "Estebany cancer". And up popped a link to an article entitled "The effect of the 'laying on of hands' on transplanted breast cancer in mice". Bill Bengston was one of the authors. The article describes four experiments in which mice were injected with a form of breast cancer known to be 100% fatal within 27 days and then given a form of bioenergy healing taught by a New York psychic. To everyone's great astonishment 87.9% of the mice remitted to full life-span cure. When selected mice were reinjected with the cancer after their remission, the cancer didn't take. (Here is the link to the article.)
Exciting stuff! But why wasn't it headline news? The article was published in 2000, and as I was to find out later, the experiments took place over 20 years before! I contacted Bill Bengston to find out what has happened since the publication of the article and he told me that there have been other experiments with even more positive results, all in all 10 experiments at 5 different institutions, including 2 medical schools. Again, why wasn't this headline news? Apparently there was a small problem with the control mice remitting as well. As soon as anyone involved in the healings so much as looked at the control mice, they too remitted. This in the minds of some people meant that "nothing happened". Dozens of mice remitted from a cancer known to be 100% fatal, yet people scoffed that the results were meaningless.
I persuaded Bill Bengston to teach public workshops in our location. The first one was in July 2007, and consisted of a 4-hour talk about the mice and a half-hour instruction on Bill's technique, which he calls "cycling". (Dr. Bengston offered a thorough description of the technique in the Spring 2007 issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 13: 3, pp. 329-332, "A Method Used to Train Skeptical Volunteers to Heal in an Experimental Setting".) Later workshops (there have been five others to date) followed a two-day format, with the mice relegated to the first part of the first day followed by an introduction to the technique, with the second day mostly devoted to practice and deeper instruction. (I say "mostly" because Bill is a university professor and he does do a great deal of "professing" in his workshops. The professing is very entertaining, but also consumes a lot of time. He does eventually get around to hands-on practice, but it takes some persuasion.)
The workshops from Bill's perspective were meant to be a "grand sociological experiment" to see if people could be taught his technique well enough to heal other people of cancer. We already knew from Bill's four initial experiments that "skeptical trainees" could be taught the technique well enough to heal mice. (Or rather we thought we knew, but then Bill recently published another article entitled "Can Healing Be Taught?" in Larry Dossey's journal Explore [Volume 4, Issue 3, pp. 197-200]. In this paper he puts into question his earlier assertion that he has effectively demonstrated that "skeptical trainees" could be taught and says that the experiment did not meet a number of criteria that he now posits as necessary to demonstrate that teaching had in fact taken place. The argument is intricate, and it involves a process called "resonance", by which the mice become bonded, and so do the healers. "Resonance" in effect means that any healing given to any of the mice is given to all the mice, and the correlate is that any healing given by any of the healers might also involve the others, including Bill himself, so it is impossible to know who actually did the healings. If you take the "resonance" theory to its logical conclusion, it is in fact entirely possible that Bill did all the healings, with the students only involved as intermediaries. My concern was not so much whether the method could be taught, but to what degree of effectiveness. Would Bill's skeptical students also have been able to heal people?)
To follow up the workshops, we have had monthly bioenergy practice meetings which Bill initially attended by phone. The practice meetings usually take the format of discussion followed by hands-on practice, with people pairing off and then forming ever larger groups, until the whole group is involved in healing. These evenings are very satisfying, as we concentrate not only on developing our skills, but also on "healing the healers". The discussions have also been quite valuable, covering topics such as "healing vs. curing" and the intricacies of Bill's "cycling" method (described in the "Methods" paper). In brief, Bill's cycling method requires people to make a list of things they want, and the question that often arises is how ethical it is, since part of the reason for doing the list is to get the things that you want, to put things such as red Ferraris and large flat-screen TVs on the list, given that the planet is in such an ecological mess. The method requires the list to be "selfish", and some of us have a heck of a time doing that. A related question that comes up is whether the same result (i.e., healing) can be had by other means, say meditation instead of "cycling". We also talk about the genesis of cancer, how much of it is environmental, biochemical, emotional, psychological, karmic etc., and what needs to happen for healing to occur.
To sum up, to date there have been about a hundred people taught the method in our location. About two and a half dozen still come to the practice sessions in various configurations. People have been remarkably (or maybe not so remarkably) shy about using the method on any kind of ailment, let alone cancer. About half a dozen or so have tried the method with cancer. We have had interesting results, which will be the subject of another post.
Postscript: Here are some links to other posts in this blog that people have found interesting: Practical challenges (what we found as we started working with the method); Case study #2 (a miraculous temporary remission); Bill's teacher speaks (some excerpts from an article about Bennett Mayrick); Energy healing and the Catholic church (not a happy relationship); Love, bioenergy, and miracles - part 2 (another story from the case files); A description of Bill Bengston's mouse experiments (from an audience member at one of his talks).
And some of my personal favourites: Looking for a paradigm change in treating cancer (drawing parallels between the history of the development of penicillin and the current state of energy healing); Can healing be learned? (commenting that in fact energy healing seems to be a relatively easy thing to learn); The mind is a powerful thing (on healing and the power of the mind); Walking Through Walls (another psychic healer, a contemporary of Bennett Mayrick, heard about).