The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Some questions about publicizing the Bengston Method

I just ran across an FAQ posted by Equilibrium Energy concerning the Bengston Method and I could not help but notice this paragraph:
Over the past 35 years, Dr. Bengston and the therapists he has trained successfully treated people with many types of cancer—bone, pancreatic, breast, brain, rectal, lymphatic, stomach, leukemia—as well as other diseases, all using this hands-on technique that is painless, noninvasive and has no unpleasant side effects. To Dr. Bengston’s knowledge, no person he has healed ever experienced a recurrence.
The reason I noticed it is because it's very close to a paragraph in the introduction to Bill Bengston's book The Energy Cure (also published as Chasing the Cure in Canada and Heilen aus dem Nichts in Germany) which reads
Over the past 30 years I’ve cured bone cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, rectal cancer, lymphatic cancer, stomach cancer, leukemia, all using hands-on techniques which are painless, noninvasive and have no unpleasant side effects. To my knowledge, no person I’ve healed has ever experienced a reoccurrence.
What has been added is the clear suggestion that the therapists Dr. Bengston has trained over the past three decades have been as successful as he is at treating these deadly cancers. [Note May 11th: I have now been advised in a comment that Dr. Bengston himself says this claim represents a misunderstanding of his work and is not accurate.]

I cannot comment on Dr. Bengston's successes, but I can certainly comment on the experiences of at least some of his therapists, since I and my colleagues have been among their number after six Toronto workshops in 2007 and 2008.

As I have pointed out several times in this blog, our experiences with the Bengston Method did not include successful cures of documented cancers. We have palliated, ameliorated, arguably extended life spans, but we did not cure any fully documented cancers. Does that translate into "successful treatment"? Coming to Toronto in 2007 Dr. Bengston never claimed that he has ever successfully taught anyone to cure cancer in humans. He only claimed that the skeptical students he trained for his experiments went on to cure transplanted breast cancer in mice (and even then he added that he could not be sure that it was his method that was responsible for the cures). I have not heard him claim otherwise in any of the interviews that I've listened to since then—but maybe I missed something.

Here is what he said about teaching healing in a talk he gave to his colleagues at the Society of Scientific Exploration. The relevant bit begins at 1 min. 9 secs.

I wish and hope for the sake of cancer sufferers everywhere that the authors of this FAQ are encountering greater success than we have in obtaining fully documented cancer cures using the Bengston Method—and given Sheldrake's morphic field theory ("the bigger the field, the bigger the effect") it could even be possible. But in publicizing the method I wish they would give us their own clinical experience and their own proof, limiting claims to what they can show to be true now. I'd be more than impressed if I were to read that in the past two years they've been able to cure X, Y, Z cancers and have the documentation to prove it. There is no need to go back 35 years.

Most people have a hard enough time wrapping their heads around the idea that Dr. Bengston has been curing the most terrifying cancers humanity has seen for 30-plus years. It is doubtful that raising the credibility bar by suggesting that his students have been doing likewise will help the cause. Even I'm left scratching my head wondering where this came from.

A cautionary tale

In the summer of 2008 we treated a stage-4 pancreatic cancer patient who we were told was on his deathbed. After we began treating him he miraculously rallied and was eventually discharged to go home. He stopped taking morphine five days after his first treatment. His jaundice reversed. He was able to get out of bed, walk to the park, go shopping, spend weekends at the cottage. He started thinking that he might even go back to work. Six weeks after we began treating him his blood values were nearly normal, but in the four weeks after that he developed septicemia and then suddenly died.

A few months later I found some promotional material on the internet relating to two workshops Dr. Bengston held that fall. In it the promoter excitedly proclaimed that our deceased patient was alive and well and back at work, fully recovered from his stage-4 pancreatic cancer. This claim was made a mere three weeks after our patient had passed away.

I don't believe that the person who wrote the promotional material meant to deceive anyone. I believe it was a case of "broken telephone" syndrome—someone acting on outdated information, not bothering to check with the source. In this way all information is suspect, except information that one is able to verify. I can't help but wonder whether our pancreatic cancer patient forms part of the 35 years of successes that this FAQ alludes to.

So please feel free to ask many, many questions and do not rest with the answer unless you've assured yourself that the person you are talking to is not basing their evidence on hearsay. And don't necessarily accept the answer "because Dr. Bengston says so" on face value either, because it could be that he is being misquoted. Inadvertently, of course.

"Appropriating" the teacher's experience

I know first hand the dangers of appropriating one's teacher's experiences and treating them as one's own. This is commonplace in energy healing. Many people assume that because a Richard Bartlett, a Bill Bengston, or an Eric Pearl can move mountains, taking a few workshops with them will enable anyone to do likewise. Yes, a few people can. Many cannot. So when I read in this FAQ that Dr. Bengston recommends eight treatments spaced one week apart, I ask whether that means that in the authors' experience eight treatments spaced one week apart are sufficient to cure particular cancers. In Dr. Bengston's talks "dose response" still sounds like an open question and in our experience different patients had different treatment requirements (we could treat a small tumour once a week, but when we switched a pancreatic cancer patient from five treatments a week to two or three, it shifted the equilibrium in favour of the cancer and his condition worsened). Or when I read that aggressive cancers respond quickly I have to ask whether that is also the authors' experience or they are merely repeating what Dr. Bengston says in his seminars. Have they tried and succeeded curing leukemia, brain and pancreatic cancer in a handful of treatments? The same goes for how tumours react and how the method works. I don't believe Dr. Bengston himself claims to know for certain how exactly what he does works—as any good scientist he only postulates and then tests hypotheses. I've never heard him say that the "energy hyper-cycles tumours out of the body"—he even questions whether what does the healing is in fact "energy".

I'd be curious to know the answers to these questions.


A friend to whom I showed this post said that she would be hesitant to add to the morphic field of doubt concerning energy healing but thought that the questions I raise are reasonable. I try to walk a fine line in this blog between being enthusiastic and supportive of energy healing but also being level-headed about it. I probably more often than not fall over on the side of enthusiasm. And while I am enthusiastic about the future prospects of some of the methods I learned, including the Bengston Method, I would be leery about promoting them to cancer patients and care-givers as reliable cures. I don't think we are there yet. But I could be wrong.


MikeB said...

Thanks for this Judith.

Honesty has to be the way in this endeavour.

Distortions from "having tickets to sell" and "fooling oneself" have been around for the whole of time - althought they are perhaps especially obvious now.

From what I can see its a few "extremely gifted" folks who have the spontaneous "power" and this is *very hard to transmit*.

By the way for the most miraculous accounts I have read of healing in the 20thC (and a case of the most gifted (and one of the least known) mystics) I recommend to you and your readers "The Magus of Strovalos" - no point reading it if you think "life is just atoms" ... but for those interested in healing and with a wider mind its fantastic. All sorts of people/healers I have recommended it to all came back to me and thanked me once they read it ;-)

Keep being honest. Only in this way can we build a "science of alternative healing".



Judith said...

Unfortunately the truth of the matter seems to be that it is a very few gifted folks who seem to have these abilities and that it is difficult to transmit. Or rather it is difficult to transmit in a way that sticks or that creates students in large numbers who equal "the Master". All the same, kudos to the folks who try.

Having been in the shoes of the one trying to sell the tickets and also identifying with the abilities of "the Master" I can attest to the pitfalls of both positions. But even when I was selling tickets I tried to stick to what I knew to be provable. That's just being prudent. I can also understand how one can be overtaken by the zeal of wanting to promote something one believes to be wonderful, in this case even a seeming solution to the cure for cancer. And who am I to argue with this enthusiasm? I too believe that energy healing will provide a solution, and it could well be that Dr. Bengston will play an important role in this. But we harm our own cause if we let enthusiasm carry us too far too soon.

Yes, I have read The Magus of Strovolos. It is certainly a great book. I find it interesting how in the past these extraordinary abilities were always presented in a quasi-religious context, which of course led people who identified themselves as rationalists to react violently against such "nonsense". But the stuff, while incomprehensible with our current scientific understanding, is absolutely real. I don't think a particular religious identification needs to play any part in it, although the overall connection between science and spirituality might need to be rethought at some point.

Judith said...

Of course if these folks are curing cancers in statistically significant numbers, their enthusiasm is well justified, and I take my hat off to them. If there is anyone out there with information about this, speak up, and share the joy.

michael said...

I would think that anyone who is terminally ill with cancer would try anything to ease the pain, and if natural energy healing is the treatment, yes give it a go. I know I would.

Judith said...


Sandra said...

I went to the source & asked Dr. Bengston by e-mail if what was being claimed in this FAQ was accurate. He said that it was not and that he didn't know where I would get such an idea. So I guess that clarifies it. Someone is taking liberties. It's really a shame.

Judith said...

Let's be charitable and assume that it was a misunderstanding. Also, it's important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Even without full cures, practitioners of the method can do a great deal to help cancer patients.