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, January 4, 2016

Let's get some clarity on the Bengston Method

Every once in a while I run across a forum discussion on the Bengston Method. The latest one is here. There is usually a predictable pattern as the discussion polarizes between a group of enthusiastic supporters who know next to nothing about the method except what they can find on the internet, and another group that is on principle opposed to anything "woo-woo" and calls Dr. William Bengston, the founder of the method, a charlatan.

So backed by my experiences with both Dr. Bengston and the method, I would like to offer some clarification.

Is he a charlatan?

In response to Dr. Bengston's detractors I will say that I do not believe he is a "charlatan". His mouse experiments are quite convincing, and there have been enough of them to show that there is indeed something anomalous going on. As far as mice go, it's all well and good: Dr. Bengston can demonstrably cure them. He also has visual proof of at least one human cure and might be able to produce testimonials of others. He is, however, very uninterested in treating people, so the claims he makes are not designed to make sick people flock to him as his critics charge.

Propagation, not enrichment?

What Dr. Bengston seems to be focused on is the propagation of his method and this is where things get interesting. Unlike some other teachers of bioenergy healing, he does not appear to be doing what he does to enrich himself. There are no weekly or monthly workshops of hundreds of students paying large sums to attend. He seems to be teaching mainly to see what will happen when people learn the method, and he claims, anecdotally, that some of his students are doing "amazing things".

The key word here is "some". Obviously Dr. Bengston can't keep track of all his students, but because the mouse experiments resulted in near-100% cures, the received wisdom on the internet is that the method is 100% successful. But not so fast: it's only 100% successful if you are a mouse. The track record for human beings is entirely different, because human beings are far more complex than mice. This is also true with conventional treatment: many promising anti-cancer agents that work on mice fail when applied to people. The other issue is transmission: Dr. Bengston may indeed be able to cure people of cancer, but that is no guarantee that the people he teaches will be able to do likewise.

Dr. Bengston claims in his experiments to have successfully taught the method to skeptical volunteers, who then went on to cure mice. He offers a caveat, which is that because of the way the method worked in the experiments (through something he calls "resonant bonding") he could not be sure that it was the volunteers who cured the mice rather than he himself using them as proxies. He will also say that those volunteers never tried their hand at curing humans. But in the rhetoric around the workshops these volunteers are being used as proof that the method can be taught, even though early on Dr. Bengston himself expressed some skepticism about actually "teaching" them.

An on-going sociological experiment?

So in effect Dr. Bengston's workshops seem to be an on-going sociological experiment around healing, belief, and transmission (which is fitting, because Dr. Bengston is a sociologist). The problem is that the people who attend are not going to them in this spirit but with the intent to learn a healing method that they believe is 100% successful in curing cancer. And the result is that we have graduates of these weekend workshops who then go home and post on their websites that they have learned this method, and offer treatments with the statement that Dr. Bengston says eight weekly sessions are sufficient to deal with stage-4 cancer. It's when I see these claims that I begin to see red, because I think they are firmly in the realm of snake oil. We have gone from someone curing mice in the lab over 40 years to someone who took a single weekend workshop and now believes they can reliably cure people, without ever necessarily having cured a single person.

Somewhere in the middle

Attending a workshop, however, is not a waste of time and neither is practicing the method. We found that it had a lot to offer in terms of palliation: patients treated with it had less pain and a much better quality of life, and they also (anecdotally) seemed to live longer than their doctors predicted. But I think it's less than ethical for a student of the method to offer it as something that cures and ditto to use the success of the mouse experiments as proof of efficacy in humans. Call it what it is: something experimental. Tell the truth: the 100% success rate applies to mice, not to people. Don't claim anything you cannot back up: don't say you can cure stage-4 cancer in eight weekly treatments unless you have done it, repeatedly, yourself.

So, as always, the path of truth lies somewhere between the cheerleaders and the detractors. To say that the method is 100% effective without adding "in mice" is to promote a lie; to say that it's worthless is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The best way to describe it is as something potentially helpful, a work in progress, and an intriguing glimpse of what one day might be absolutely possible.


Dreygorian said...

BTW, "Snake Oil", as you mentioned in your blog, has gotten a bad rap. Chinese immigrants in the old west were selling snake oil obtained from the Chinese water snake as a medicine. In fact this is valid thing to do. Fat from the Chinese water snake is very high in Omega 3 oils which is essential to good health which most people back in the old west and even today in America lack in their diets. Quack Doctors out west intentionally gave it a bad name so that people would buy their worthless patent medicines instead.

It appears that the Energy Cure declines over time and generations as per what you say. Curiously, this is almost universally true for all parapsychological phenomenon (supposedly with the exception of remote viewing). Often paranormal phenomenon reverse themselves too. No one has ever come up with a good theory on why this is so which is understandable since no one really has a good (testable) theory on the paranormal itself. Nevertheless the decline does lend support to energy healing being a fully "miraculous" phenomenon rather then being some type of poorly understood science. Methinks until someone gets a good handle on miracles we will probably see many more Energy Cures come and go like dozens of other paranormal flaps (as John Keel called waves and occurances of high strangeness.

Judith said...

Thank you for this very interesting perspective on "snake oil" and energy healing. I didn't know that at the root of "snake oil" was an actual remedy that was unjustly maligned. As to energy healing being more in the realm of miracles than science, I would say that people whose minds are closed to miracles and who actively reject energy healing as "snake oil" are the ones least likely to benefit from it. To me this bears a relationship to the expectations of scientists affecting their work, as for instance in the famous "double-slit" experiment.

Dreygorian said...

That is actually two interesting thoughts wrapped up into one.

1) The double-slit strangeness is an “observer” effect in the “Copenhagen Interpretation” (a school of thought) of quantum mechanics wherein measuring (looking at, observing) the system causes the collapse of what was merely up until then a probability wave function of all the possible states that the system could end up in, into a single, definite state: I’m not looking and its sort of, maybe-wavy this, maybe-wavy that, maybe-wavy the other........Now I’m looking........Boom! Hah, there is a particle right there, now!).

2) The “experimenter: effect in parapsychology is where the experimenter unknowingly effects his experiment with his own powers of Psi and therefore comes up with questionable results with respect when attempting to measure a “pure” effect (e.g. “The Effect of Being Near Pee Wee Herman on Zener Card Guessing Scores”). It is a known bugaboo in parapsychology that makes the results of all Psi experimentation questionable as to causality and non-repeatable and reversible.

The thesis would be: The original healer is definitely tapped into something mystical and it works reliably and repeatedly (Experimenter Effect). He then attempts to codify and teach it so that it can propagate throughout the material world. Lots of people get involved and it begins to move from the mystical into the material. (Observer Effect). It then dilutes and eventually disappears (Collapse of the "mystical" wave function to an expected material state). Interesting concept.

Judith said...

Thank you for this. It clarifies beautifully something I've been trying to figure out for years.

Unknown said...

Hi Judith,
Are you a bio energy healer?
And from which town are you doing it? Or do you practice by distance?
If you had to advice somebody, which method should he learn?
Thanks and kind regards

Judith said...

Hi Jenna,

I do healing both locally in Toronto, and if there is need for it, by distance. If someone wanted to learn energy healing, I would ask what they were looking for. If they were looking for something deep and spiritual, I would recommend Reiki. If they were looking for something practical, I would recommend either PureBioenergy (the North-American variant of the Domancic Method) or Quantum Touch. If someone were really serious, I would recommend all three :)

I hope this is useful.