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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bengston bioenergy and other modalities

A little discussed or understood aspect of Bengston bioenergy is the possible energy transfer that occurs during the workshops. (People who can "see" energy report that they can actually observe this happening.) Reiki folk call this transfer an "attunement" and it is what Reiki teaching is based on. It also occurs in Buddhism, allowing the teacher to take the student to higher levels of understanding. This energy transfer in the workshops makes me wonder whether any of these methods could be effectively learned through written instructions alone.

Before I ever met Bill I was already what is called a "Reiki master", which simply means that I've been attuned to teach Reiki to others. When I met Bill he very generously shared the energy with me and described his technique. When I returned home, attuned to the energy but less than proficient at the technique, I found that my energy treatments had changed. I also found that whenever I encountered or taught another Reiki practitioner, the energy would readily flow to them. They too found that their treatments changed, even though they, like me, were not at all proficient at the actual technique.

As a practitioner of a number of modalities, I find that they all seem to have different energy signatures, or different "frequencies". I have had clients who could, for instance, tell the difference between Reiki and Quantum Touch. They told me that Reiki felt light, diffuse and ethereal, while QT had weight and warmth. Medical qi gong (or chi gung) in turn produces an energy that can feel heavy and magnetic, like a million minuscule ball-bearings rolling around inside one's body.

Bill says that what he accesses is "source energy", and that other modalities (and even religious experiences) use various filters to access the same energy. The use of different filters would explain the difference in "frequencies".

At a recent workshop we had a number of participants who also do "shamanic journeying". Shamanic journeying, taught by Sandra Ingerman, who has also written a book of the same title, is based on age-old shamanic practices designed to contact helpers in the spirit world. It is the oldest form of "medicine" in the world. One of the practices is called (among other things) "calling in the ancestors" and it involves the generation of spontaneous sound. At the workshop attended by the "shamanic journeyers" we were practicing Bill's technique on one another when suddenly spontanous sound arose, grew, and built to a beautiful crescendo before diminishing into silence. The spontaneous sounding has since happened in some of our practice evenings as well.

It makes sense that something that comes from the "source energy" would have affinity with all energy practices. I am looking forward to the on-going journey of finding out what else is possible.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Teaching bioenergy healing and chasing the American Dream

So let's say you have discovered you are a healer and that you have a method to teach. How do you now go on to disseminate it?

If you are altruistic and not overly ambitious, you can teach a number of people to do it, and a number of people to teach it, and let them loose. This would be the "trickle down" model, where the originator teaches the method to several people, who then go on to teach several others, and so on and so forth. You, the original teacher, would not benefit financially from the teaching done by the others; you also don't get to control how your method is disseminated.

If you want to make some money and exercise a certain level of control, you can use the "pyramid" model, where the originator teaches several others, whom he then authorizes to teach, who then also teach and authorize others, and so on and so forth. Here there is an effort at creating a central authority and a portion of each teacher's income is funnelled back to you, the originator. This guarantees a certain level of income, especially if the method is widely taught.

If you wanted to make lots of money, you would go for the "American mass-market self-help seminar" model, where the originator teaches ever larger groups with the aid of authorized helpers, until the groups get so big as to be unmanageable, at which point a number of the helpers split off and start teaching their own authorized or unauthorized versions. With this model most of the income goes back to the originator, who then gets to buy expensive sports cars and real estate and then chiefly uses his talent to live the American dream.

The problem with all three models is that teaching gets more and more diluted the farther away it gets from the original teacher and the larger the group is that is being taught. (It could be argued that this may be true of all healing models -- after all, Jesus taught the apostles how to heal, and what happened after that? You hear of very little healing going on in the Bible after Jesus, and successful "laying on of hands" did not seem to pass down through the generations of Christians that followed.)

With the current systems, Reiki follows the "trickle down" model, Quantum Touch the "pyramid" model, and Matrix Energetics and Reconnective Healing the "self-help seminar" model. All four produce practitioners of varying qualities.

Bill likes to say that healing talent, like musical talent, is distributed unevenly in the population. Some people are Mozarts, others are like the tone deaf kid down the block playing Chopsticks on the piano, and most people fall somewhere in between. If you teach enough people, the reasoning goes, you will get a few Mozarts. So the trick is to go for volume. And of course volume benefits the teacher, especially with the "self-help seminar" model. If you do a few weekend workshops with 300 people each at $325 a pop, that can translate into some serious money. You can tell yourself that everyone will get something for their money, and it's really not your responsibility to make sure that they really get the method, as there are too many of them. That's what your helpers are for. Your helpers get to attend the workshop for free, so you don't have to pay them anything, but you also don't really know how good they are. A number of people will walk away satisfied and a number of people will feel stymied and confused, but then that's the way most things are. The truly important thing, this being America, is to entertain them, and to give them something to take home. And you are doing good, because you are after all teaching them something that could awaken those potential Mozarts -- however few of them there may be.

Most of the systems produce books (and now DVDs) to promote the teachings. There are many Reiki books out there, most of which say "this can't be learned from a book, go find a reputable teacher in your area". Quantum Touch has a book that says it teaches the method, which is indeed very easy to follow, and claims that a number of people have learned the method from the book alone. Books from teachers who follow the "mass-market self-help seminar" model focus on how the teacher found the method. They also claim that some people have learned the healing technique, pretty much by osmosis, just by reading the book. The purpose of most of these books is to put the teacher's name out there, to get the bodies into the workshops. (Of course the sale of books and DVDs also generates a certain income.)

What's wrong with this picture? Lack of accountability, that's what. When you go to your local MD and see his or her diploma from X University, you know that your doctor has gone through a rigorous program of instruction and testing that guarantees a certain minimum level of competence. Your basic energy healer's certificate guarantees no such thing. Mostly it guarantees that he or she was a warm body at a workshop for which he or she paid a certain amount of money. This is why it's so hard to get any respect as an energy healer, unless you are known for producing results.

Quantum Touch and Matrix try to get around this by requiring practitioners to attend a minimum number of workshops and put in a minimum number of hours of practice. But the practice is unsupervised, the hours self-reported, and there is an assumption made that a minimum number of workshops attended will guarantee competence. There is no testing of candidates.

After the first Bengston workshop we held, someone asked me if they could now add the certification to their list of modalities. That made me think. Here we were teaching a method that purportedly cured cancer. The people who came to the workshop, which at that point was only 1 day long, had had at best a few hours of instruction in a method that Bill had been practicing for 35 years. They would now go out there and claim that they "did" the Bengston method, people with cancer would come to them for healing, and how could I even begin to guarantee that they could actually do anything? The conclusion I came to is that no one should be certified as a practitioner in the method, let alone as a teacher, without producing at least one documented cancer cure.

There is, by the way, another teaching model. It's the model practiced by actual schools, where there are multiple teaching levels, extensive supervision, and testing and mentorship programs. If we are going to take energy healing seriously, that's where we should be headed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Healing, gender, and the "Age of Aquarius"

Something strange happened in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The heavens opened up and it rained healing knowledge, and Bill's friend Bennett Mayrick was not the only recipient. A number of healing modalities developed as a result: Richard Gordon's Quantum Touch (which he learned from Bob Rasmussen, who was Gordon's own version of Bennett Mayrick); Richard Bartlett's Matrix Energetics, which came about when Bartlett, a DC and an ND, suddenly "saw" and healed an energetic aberration in a child, fixing her crossed eyes; Eric Perl's Reconnective Healing (here's another DC who suddenly saw strange things happen in his consulting room); Jeff Levin's Body Spin (Levin first learned from someone else, then developed his own method, which, coming from an architect, is appropriately architectural); Zdenko Domancic's Bioenergy Healing (it rained healing knowledge in the former Yugoslavia too). The strange thing is that these men teaching these modalities all seem to be more or less within the same age range, early fifties to early sixties. Does this have anything to do, I propose tongue in cheek, with the coming of the "Age of Aquarius"? (If I'm missing any women that anyone is aware of, let me know. I did think of Caroline Myss, who age-wise fits the profile, but she is a medical intuitive, not a healer. And Barbara Brennan predates the boys.) In particular I find it fascinating that Zdenko Domancic's chronology -- his method has been around for about thirty years -- is the same as Bill's, and that judging by the stuff that they both claim to able to heal -- the list includes cancer, AIDS, gangrene -- the energy seems to be from the same provenance. I am reminded that new inventions often appear simultaneously in different places, as if an idea percolating for quite some time in the group mind suddenly burst forth. (The discovery of the technology for the use of telephones, for instance, is claimed by both Russia and Canada.)

Update Dec. 22, 2009: It turns out that Zdenko Domancic was not the recipient of spontaneous healing ability but studied healing in the Soviet Union with a woman called Djuna Davitashvili, reported to be Leonid Brezsnev's energy healer. And recently I ran across a book by another woman healer, Joyce Whitely Hawkes, a former scientist who became a healer after an encounter with the "white light" when a stained-glass window fell on her head. Her book is called Cell-Level Healing. So it's not all men! We had a discussion in our group about men and women healers possibly approaching their talents differently, with the woman more likely to go about her business quietly, healing her family and friends, and the man more likely to try to gain a name (or "build an empire") for himself. We also wondered whether woman healers would be more reluctant to come forward because they still remember, on some visceral level or even in their very DNA, the witch burnings that many centuries ago decimated their kind.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Deconstructing the hype

When we first started doing workshops with Bill, we were very cautious about how he was presented. There were to be no extravagant claims to be made on his behalf. My efforts at advertising reflected this caution, simply inviting people to meet Bill, professor of sociology, researcher, energy healer, who in a series of experiments had brought 87.9% of mice injected with a fatal form of cancer to full life-span remission, using a new form of bioenergy healing. No claims were made that could not be backed up by Bill's research.

Later on as we began using the method, I added our own experiences, e.g., the prolapsed uterus, the healed knee, the efforts by psychotherapists to use the method in their practices. We remained grounded in facts and realities; only claims that could proven; no hyperbole.

Recently a flyer came to my hands from another city, a flashy, neon affair proclaiming the "Bengston Mind Technique" and exhorting the reader to get "ready for a world without dis-ease". This is what I read:

What if there were a simple documented method —
that implodes cancerous tumors and heals a variety of
physical and psychological conditions including clinical
depression and severe psychiatric conditions — are
you ready to learn it and add it to your practice?

It then proceeded to add, among other things, that Bill had taught MD's and other healthcare professionals and that he was a featured speaker on Mehmet Oz's show on Oprah and Friends. People who signed up for the workshop being promoted would receive a free MP3 download of his lecture on his experiments and also a copy of the "famous mouse papers". A graphic of two mice toasting over a hunk of cheese could also be noted. (The presence of the two mice made me hope that Bill had not actually seen this, as my own efforts to introduce a tiny photo of a mouse into one of my early flyers had been summarily overruled.)

Here is the deconstruction:

The method is extensively documented to implode cancerous tumours, in mice.

In workshops Bill speaks of one person he healed of clinical depression using this method. A psychoanalyst in South Africa reported good results with a client with obsessive compulsive disorder. Locally someone else found that it helped someone with OCD and two others who suffered from anxiety, but that a number of patients were resistant to the method because it fell too far outside their expectations of what psychotherapy should be. Some psychotherapists reported using it on themselves to handle their own levels of anxiety and to prepare themselves for sessions, but did not feel comfortable offering it to their patients. It is too early to say that the method heals "severe psychiatric conditions".

Bill also says that the method appears simple but almost everybody gets it wrong at first and requires much correction. He even says it would be arrogant of him to assume that people will get it in one weekend, because much practice is required. Which takes me to the related point that, IMHO, no one should be putting on Bill Bengston workshops who is not prepared to do follow-up in the form of regular practice sessions, including, at least for a while, on-going consultation with Bill. The purpose of these organized practice sessions is to provide further instruction and support. I invite you to read previous entries for my experiences with the method to see what kind of learning curve can be involved.

How about What if there were a method, documented to implode cancerous tumours in mice, anecdotally reported to cure cancer and other ailments in some people, and shown to be of benefit in some psychiatric conditions? That would be more like it.

In our locality Bill has taught a small number of MD's and "other healthcare professionals" who were drawn to see him speak out of curiosity after reading the "famous mouse papers", and elsewhere he has given talks. He was interviewed in September by Dr. Mehmet Oz, who invited Bill on his show after I sent him the same "famous mouse papers". The "mouse papers" are indeed quite amazing, and getting more famous all the time. The interview aired in November.

The teachability of the method is so far established only for curing mice (although Bill, ever the researcher, questioned whether his experiments constituted adequate proof in his "Can Healing Be Taught?" paper in Explore magazine). When it comes to showing that the method can be taught effectively enough for people to cure other people of cancer, it's early days yet. Nothing is effectively proven, only suggested. Until such time as there are at least half a dozen documented human cancer cures produced by people Bill taught, there can be no hype. When these cancer cures are produced, there will be no hype, because by then the "hype" will be the new reality. Then we can go to town on the advertising.

So how can you learn Bill's method?

If you are new to this blog: Bill Bengston's claim to fame is a series of experiments with laboratory mice in which he cured a significantly large percentage of the mice of a normally fatal form of cancer using a new method of bioenergy healing. In some of the experiments he used "skeptical volunteers" to whom he taught the method to do the healing. The question is whether the technique can be taught to be successfully applied to people as well. There have been a number of workshops to teach the method. For the results, see my post below, entitled "So how effective is Bengston Bioenergy?"

Can you learn Bill's method by reading about it?

When Bill published his "Resonance" article in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in the spring of 2007, he also published a companion article describing how he taught his "skeptical volunteers" to heal the mice. His detailed instructions are sandwiched between a caveat that says that it is logically possible that the healing the students produced had nothing to do with the techniques described and another that states that no one he knows of has actually learned the technique from written instructions. He ends by inviting readers to reproduce his experiments with mice to see if his results can be replicated and offering to go teach them in person.

There is a reason for Bill's caution. He doesn't yet know exactly what part the technique plays in the actual healing. Following the instructions might not in itself be sufficient to produce a healing effect. There might actually be an energy transfer, as there is in Reiki and Buddhism, that opens up a necessary pathway in the student and that requires some form of mental contact between teacher and student. The technique might simply be a tool to allow this energy transfer to take place and an anchor (in the NLP sense of the word) to help the student practice.

Can you learn Bill's method in a workshop?

Maybe. We've certainly been trying to teach people. Bill says in the workshops that the technique is complex enough that it would be arrogant of him to assume that you'll be able to get it all in one go. His "skeptical volunteers" needed six sessions spaced out over six weeks to "get it". A workshop followed by practice sessions (as we've been doing) or taking several workshops might do the trick. I would think that the learning progresses by degrees. As you get more exposure to Bill and the technique, your knowledge and your ability to heal would deepen. This is not unique to Bill's method -- it's true of anything you're trying to learn.

There are some people who already have an ability to heal that they may or may not be aware of. Such people would either discover their ability or find it enhanced just by attending a single workshop and by being exposed to the energy Bill carries and learning his method. One such person recently said that learning the technique has allowed her to be able to do healing work even when she wasn't "in the mood".

So what's the best way to learn?

Here is what Bill writes in the "Methods" article:

Finally, it must be emphasized once again that all training of the volunteer healers in these experiments took place in group settings and lasted for an average of 6 weeks. Furthermore, the techniques were molded to the idiosyncrasies of each of volunteer. However simple the techniques appear to be, every individual misinterpreted the instructions and needed correction and much practice.

I note that this generous 6-week format would also allow for repeated energy transfers along with a good deal of individual attention that is difficult to arrange in a weekend workshop involving dozens of people.

Clearly a longer course or a mentorship program would be the best way to go. It would be grand to get funding for an institute where on-going teaching and experimentation could be carried out. In the meantime other formats could be tried, such as courses lasting perhaps four or five days or mentoring via computer link-up.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The practical challenges of working with Bengston Bioenergy

So here you are: you've taken your first Bill Bengston workshop, you had a great time, you're raring to go, but you have no clue whether you actually "got it".

You have been taught an energy healing method that purports to fix cancer. Not just headaches and wonky knees, but cancer. Are you going to run out there and put your hands on the next person you find who says they have the big "C"?

Judging by our experiences here over five newbie workshops, the answer is "no". There are very few of us who have taken the workshops who have also had the temerity to offer treatments -- I am one of the few. My two posts below describe some outcomes; and the post below them discusses the effectiveness of the method in our hands to date. I remain hopeful about the method's long-term prospects. We are not yet where Bill is -- I hope that someday we'll get there, in fact I hope for the sake of all present and future cancer sufferers of the world that a lot of us get there fairly soon.

For those of you who are considering trying to treat others, here is my "treatise" on the practical difficulties.

When to treat?
The method is contraindicated while the patient is receiving radiation or chemo, as the two treatments, Bill's and the allopathic one, the one designed to energize and the other to kill, could cancel each other out. But Bill also says that it has been his experience that after someone has received radiation or chemo the technique is no longer as effective as before, and will not bring the patient to full remission. So that leaves one option: to treat the person before conventional treatment is employed. That's all fine and well, but you can't very well tell someone not to have conventional treatment. That would be highly irresponsible. So that leaves you the window between diagnosis and treatment, which is not a very long time.

How long will it take?
Dilemma number two: we have no clue. It could be quick or it could be slow. In our experience the time between diagnosis and treatment has not been long enough. It could work in that short a time, but going by our current experience chances are it won't.

How do I know it's working?
There's another rub. According to Bill in some cases the tumour will shrink, but in others it will grow to a critical mass before it "implodes". Some people feel the energy during treatment, others don't. Some people feel energized by the energy, others feel exhausted. Some people bounce off the walls, others develop cold symptoms. Some have pain during treatment or after. Some experience all of the above at various points. Blood test results can be all over the map too: sometimes they get worse, sometimes they get better (though the overall trajectory should point towards "better"). So everything is "good". Tumour getting smaller? That's good. Tumour's getting bigger? That's good too: it's getting ready to implode. You have pain? That's good. No pain? That's good too. Cold symptoms? That's excellent: that sounds like a healing crisis! It's not difficult to see why it's hard to get credibility as an energy healer.

So how do you know it's working? The answer is you don't. Not really, not until something actually changes for the better. People will often have an increased sense of well being and will, based on that, be willing to trust you. But what if the next time they go for a check-up, they find out the tumour is bigger? That's when trust flies out the window, and that's when you begin to doubt yourself. In fact it has been known to happen that trust flies out the window even when the next test shows the tumour is better. Just by getting into an allopathic environment the patient can begin to doubt you, as it is perfectly their right and prerogative to do.

This is the problem with energy therapies of all stripes: there just hasn't been enough research to know what's going on.

So how do we get around these challenges?
One way to get around these challenges is to start with animals. One of my first patients was a cat with brain cancer. The cancer had invaded its nasal passages, so the poor thing sounded like Darth Vader. After I treated it, it breathed normally for about three days, so clearly something had happened. Cats have no preconceptions; the treatment will work or not work on its own merits. I didn't get to treat the cat often enough, only about once every two weeks, and eventually it died. But the last time I treated it, it jumped up on the sofa and put its paw on my arm as if to say "thank you". That was nice.

Another patient was a dog, a big white mutt called Bo. When I saw Bo in the springtime, he was clearly on his last legs. His owners thought he had some kind of cancer but didn't have money for the vet. I briefly treated Bo. In the middle of the summer his owners told me that after I treated him he bled from the nose for two days, then started eating again. The second time I saw Bo was in the fall, and this time he was really on his last legs, not even getting up from his doggie bed. Another treatment, and he was better again. I last spoke to the owners New Year's Day, 2009, and Bo was at that point a happy, healthy mutt.

Another way, and you have to be brave for this one, is to take on the incurable cancers, the ones where the conventional treatments are known not to work. But that makes for a steep learning curve, and you could find yourself attending funerals. You also have to be willing to put in the time. Serious cancers take daily treatment. And there is no way you can charge for your time, not if you can't guarantee that you know what you are doing. These are the cases where it's impossible not to get emotionally involved. You feel for the patient, you feel for the family; you root for them, you grieve with them, you share their joys and their despair. You have to have some ability to establish professional distance, otherwise you could become a basket case -- and I speak from personal experience here.

If you are going to take on these difficult cases, we advise you to work in a team. It's good to have buddies to keep you sane. It's also good to be able to rotate if the patient needs treatment every day. Adding a "Greek chorus" of distance treaters is a great help. This is how I envisage the future of the method: groups treating individuals in a web of shared responsibility.

By the way this is also where the method could most clearly shine. It's with the serious cancers that you can see if it's working most clearly: if the white blood cell count starts dropping, though there is no way it should; if the jaundice reverses; if the person who needed morphine every four hours no longer needs any painkillers at all; if instead of dying, the patient gets out of bed and begins walking again; if the doctor has reason to say "there has been a miracle". This is why we are doing this. We are looking for that miracle.

A third way, if you just want to get your toes wet, but still do some good, is to join or create a group that offers distance healing. I suspect distance healing groups are quite potent. When we were treating our pancreatic cancer patient we had a "standing date" to offer distance healing at 10 p.m. every day. One day I started at 9:52 and then felt a remarkable jump in energy when everyone else came online. The people we treat tell us that they feel the treatment. They feel more peaceful and sleep better, or they feel more calm and energized. Sometimes incredible healings can happen, as with a little boy I will call James, who was in the hospital with severe burns from a household accident. He was supposed to be in the hospital for weeks and weeks but the day after we sent him a distance treatment from one of the workshops he was released to go home, because his burn had unexpectedly scabbed over overnight. An added bonus to doing distance healing is that it feels really, really good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's still not about what you want -- case study #2

(Remember: personal details have been changed to protect people's identity.)

Mischa was too young to be dying of pancreatic cancer. Unlike Mileni, he had a loving family around him, who were devastated to be told that he had only days to live. Pancreatic cancer is invariably fatal, but often the end can be delayed with chemo; in his case it came on so fast, and so unexpectedly, that chemo was not really even a viable option, though it was still tried, then quickly abandoned as hopeless. We found out about Mischa through the friend of a friend of someone who came to one of Bill's workshops, and we rushed to his bedside.

I used to have a huge phobia about hospitals and dying, but my earlier experience with Mileni acted as a kind of shock treatment for it, so I had no second thoughts about walking into Mischa's room on the oncology floor of a local hospital. But Mischa's appearance still shocked me. He was yellow and skeletal, and so drugged with painkillers that he was barely conscious. I had to wait for him to be conscious enough to understand me before I could ask for his permission to treat him.

Mischa had stage-4 pancreatic cancer with metastases to the liver and was in a state of imminent liver failure. He had so many tumours on his liver that the word used by his doctor to describe them was "innumerable". Bill told us that he himself had not treated anyone with stage-4 pancreatic cancer (because by the time treatment could be arranged they were usually gone) and that our biggest challenge would be that anyone in Mischa's state would likely have already given himself up for dead. We would be, figuratively speaking, dragging him back from the edge of the grave, and psychologically that could be quite a challenge for him.

Once again we had three treaters, and this time everyone stuck with it. We took turns treating him singly or in pairs, so he received at least an hour and a half of hands-on treatment every day. We also had a "Greek chorus" of people offering distance treatments, with a standing date at 10:00 p.m. as everyone in the group who could take the time joined in to send energy to Mischa. The very first night he woke up, looked at his sister sitting next to him, and said "I feel all this energy -- what do I do with it?"

His body's response was almost immediate. By the very next day something had changed. His legs seemed less swollen and the rash on them began to heal. He became more conscious. By the weekend he was able to stand and eat. He became less yellow and needed less pain medication -- in fact five days after we started treating him he stopped needing pain medication altogether. By then he was also able to walk short distances without assistance. Eight days after we started treatment he was released to go home, and his doctor told him that she considered his survival a miracle.

Upon his return home Mischa continued to improve. Eventually there were walks to the park and back, then trips to the mall, then weekends at the cottage. Six weeks after the beginning of treatment he had bloodtests done and was told that his blood values were all normal or near normal. His jaundice was gone. He was putting on weight. His doctor told him that he had normal liver and kidney function. About two weeks later the medi-port for the delivery of chemo was surgically removed as no longer necessary.

We were ecstatic. We kept telling him that he was making history, and that he would get to go on Oprah to tell his story. Bill followed his improvement with great interest. We were making history, too, validating his technique. We would all go on Oprah together! It was a great to have done this, to have gone into the hospital room of someone beyond hope and brought him back from the brink. The future looked rosy.

But there were signs that all was not well. Mischa started having pain around one of his kidneys. Tests were done for a kidney infection or kidney failure, but all the results came back normal. Then the pain moved to his lower back. Then he became listless and tired and unwilling to eat. We suspected some other kind of infection and suggested the possibility, but because he had no fever that was not taken seriously (energy healers generally speaking are not taken very seriously anyway, and certainly not allowed to diagnose). We were surprised that we could not affect the pain, as often pain relief is one of the first outcomes of our treatment, even when the pain is significant. (In fact the chief reason we suspected an infection was that we had already observed that when it comes to infections, we are not all that effective.)

Mischa died quite suddenly, ten weeks after he had been told he had days to live. He did have an undiagnosed infection. Was it a case of massive bad luck, or a case of us trying to argue with something bigger than ourselves and losing? Was he meant die, and did we interfere with a larger purpose by treating him? If the infection had been discovered sooner and he had been treated with antibiotics in time, would he have survived to full remission? Unfortunately we will never know.

Postscript I had the opportunity to present Mischa's case to a group of oncologists in 2009. When I told them that Mischa had not died of cancer, they looked at me and said, almost in unison, "no cancer patient dies of the cancer". They die of complications their weakened bodies cannot fight off. So maybe Mischa dying of something other than his cancer was not as significant as I thought, but his ten-week remission remains an extraordinary event.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting it wrong before getting it right - case study #1

(NB: The personal details of the people in all case studies have been changed to protect their identity.)

Mileni came to us with acute myelogenous leukemia. She had no family here, no husband, no children, only a solicitous group of concerned friends who were quite prepared to help her get through chemo. But Mileni didn't want chemo. She looked at her odds, and having been told by her oncologist that she would need the absolutely most aggressive kind of chemo possible and would likely end up intubated in intensive care for weeks on end, she decided that the odds were not worth it (the 5-year survival rate for her cancer with chemo was 10%, but without chemo, 0%). She was fatalistic: she was willing to try what we did and if it didn't work, she would settle for death with dignity.

Full of confidence after our first seminar with Bill, we decided to treat Mileni. Bill had told us that aggressive cancers remitted quickly, and as acute myelogenous leukemia is one of the most aggressive kinds, we were secretly hopeful for Mileni's speedy recovery. We told her that the treatment was experimental and that because we could not guarantee results we could not accept payment. At first there were three of us treating her, but then it became just me. She received treatment first once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week. In spite of this her blood count continued to worsen, although the treatments seemed to slow her deterioration. About three months after her treatment began, however, her doctor announced that her white blood cell count was now "gravely concerning". This meant that she could at any moment develop a fatal brain haemorrhage. When she left his consulting room to use the bathroom, he made baleful eyes at me and told me that "leukemia patients die in horrible ways". He wanted me to convince her to agree to have chemo.

By this time Mileni had stopped talking to her friends because of their solicitous insistence that they would help her through chemo. She would not hear of it. The very mention of the word "chemo" made her angry and anger made her condition noticeably worse. I did the only thing I could think of: I took her to see Bill, who graciously agreed to see us. After a few days of treatments from Bill she seemed to perk up, and could even be seen doing the occasional pirouette on the lawn. But upon her return home she crashed, and her white blood cell count sky-rocketed. The numbers went from "gravely concerning" to astronomical ("astronomical" was almost five times "gravely concerning"). The numbers would now only rise, we were told, and the white blood cells would spill over into her lymph nodes and her brain. She had bruises because her platelet count was low and a constant fever. I was treating her daily but with little hope.

Then suddenly something happened. One day during treatment I felt something different accompanied by a sudden sense that I had just "got it". And sure enough, the next time Mileni went for her blood test, the white blood cell count was down. Her doctor said it was a lab error. There was another blip up the time after, but then the count decidedly reversed. She was having two bloodtests a week, and with each one the number would go down 15 to 20 per cent. People at the hospital who did not know her history would ask her what kind of chemotherapy she was on, because her body was behaving as if she had been receiving chemo. But unfortunately along with the white blood cells her red blood cells and platelets were also falling. She began receiving transfusions, which only worked for a while, as her body began to react to the blood as if it were a foreign substance. It became a race against time. I had the idea that if all the bad white blood cells were to go, her body would start manufacturing healthy blood cells -- just as with chemo. Mileni by this point had settled for death with dignity but allowed me to have my delusions, and to keep treating her, so long as I kept her company.

When the final crash came I went with her to emergency, where a young doctor shouted at her, as if she were hard of hearing, that she needed to contact her family because she was dying. He helpfully assured her that she would not survive the weekend. But survive she did, with hours of treatment, and then my next act as her healer was to negotiate with the social worker to have her transferred into palliative care. I continued to treat her and I continued to remain hopeful. Surely a miracle would happen and Mileni would walk out of the hospital on her own two feet. On her last day I sat with her until 11 p.m. She died peacefully in her sleep at 2 a.m. Her last blood test the day before showed her white blood cell count as "normal".


I was devastated by Mileni's death. I had clearly become too involved with her in the course of her treatment, but I do not know at what point it would have been possible for me to walk away and still be at peace with my conscience. Some people comforted me by saying that I had done something beautiful by sticking with Mileni to the end, and that even though I hadn't cured her, important healing had taken place. There was a big debate in our group about the value of "healing" versus "curing" with the conclusion that without healing no curing could take place. A number of the group who think beyond matters of the body in this life felt that in cosmic terms healing the whole being was far more important than curing the physical body.

From the perspective of practicing Bill's technique my over-involvement with Mileni was not a good thing. It is an important part of the technique for the practitioner to be detached from the outcome. If you care too much, you get in the way. Also, it is not a good idea to treat someone who desires death with dignity. The best candidates for Bill's technique are people who passionately want to live. I think Mileni wanted someone with her who would not pressure her into treatment. I was chiefly there to hold her hand and to ease the process of her dying. It's not what I wanted to happen. The lesson Mileni taught was "it's not about what you want." I am still not sure how well I learned it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So how effective is Bengston Bioenergy?

The mouse experiments have done wonders in proving that Bill's method works. We know that method cures mice, but the important question is whether it cures people. Anecdotally we have heard that in Bill's hands it does cure people, so the next question is: can the people Bill teaches also cure people the way Bill does after taking his workshops?

We've been doing workshops now for a year and a half, six to date, five for newbies and one workshop for "alumni" who have already taken the introductory one; there have also been several "alumni" evenings with Bill. I've been at every single event as the main organizer. Several people have attended a few as helpers. We also have monthly meetings. We are excited by the potential of the work. But after a year and a half I would have hoped to have more concrete results, or at least a half a dozen documented cures, to show for our labours. Our results have been promising, but not necessarily conclusive.

We have had success with suspected cancers in the testing stages, even some that were strongly suspected, considered to be metastases or recurrences of a prior cancer. The first test would confirm the presence of something worrysome, but the next test would find nothing, or the "something" would just disappear before the biopsy, so no biopsy would be done. From the patient's perspective these are the best-case scenarios because they involve the least amount of suffering, but for those of us trying to prove that the technique works, they don't do much. In the view of orthodox medicine the lump that disappears wasn't cancer in the first place because, by definition, cancer doesn't just "disappear" all by itself without painful, momentous, and destructive intervention.

We have had a bunch of interesting anomalous results. A visible tumour that shrank to less than half its size in two treatments -- then proceeded to just "hang out", still shrinking slowly, for the next six months (it's still there). A lymphoma that was re-diagnosed, first as leukemia, then as a case of lupus. A case of acute myelogenous leukemia where the white blood cell count reversed and a case of stage-4 pancreatic cancer that went into a 10-week remission (these will be the subjects of separate posts as both these patients subsequently died). With non-cancerous conditions we've seen a severely prolapsed uterus return to normal after treatment and knee-replacement surgery cancelled after the patient no longer needed a cane to walk.

Judging from my limited experience I would say that these treatments have a different rhythm and a different way of working from standard medical treatments. The outcome is either inexplicable and mysterious -- things vanishing from one day to the next -- or languidly slow. My preference is for the quick, inexplicable vanishings. With slow you can doubt whether it's working, and so can the patient. It can also take months, and months, and months of treatment. But what we have observed is an increase in the well-being of the person receiving treatment even when the treatment is taking its sweet old time. The results we've observed are different from some of the ones Bill describes where tumours simply shrink as if someone were playing a movie backwards.

The other observation I would make is that all these healings have been done by a handful of people. All of them have other types of energy practices such as Reiki, shamanism, or deep meditation in their background. They have also either attended more than one workshop or have had access to Bill in one-on-one training situations. People who take one of Bill's workshops from scratch, with no other "energy" background, tend to be shy about trying out the technique to begin with, and they also have less access to patients, so we have less of a chance to find out how effectively they could use it. An argument could be made that because they have the method in its purest form, they ought to be the best at it.

So it's exciting and promising, but as yet, no cigar.

I expect the first documented cures will come from Bill's own bailiwick, where there is now also a group, with some people receiving active mentoring from him. This kind of mentoring and participation by the teacher is how Bill learned the technique in the first place, so it would make sense for the method to work best under these conditions.

Postscript Oct. 20, 2011: I have recently heard another cancer healer say that cancer adapts to treatment over time, so the longer the treatment goes on, the less effective it becomes, unless you radically change it up as you go along to keep the cancer "confused". Our experiences treating people seem to confirm this observation. This particular healer, Kurt Peterson, gets around the problem by giving one whopping full-day treatment to knock out the cancer for once and for all. Both Kurt Peterson and Bill appear to be very strong healers; the rest of us here seem to have only managed, by and large, to keep people relatively healthy while slowing the cancer down. It's been helpful, but not quite what I was aiming for.

Bill and the psychic - my take on the "Bill story"

Bill met the psychic back in the early seventies, when he was still a youngster fresh out of university. The psychic was in his late forties and had just recently discovered his abilities. His talent was "psychometry" (token object reading), and he could also make clouds disappear. "Token object reading" means that he could pick up an object and tell you things about the owner that he could not possibly know. The ability to heal arose out of these token object readings, as the psychic, whose name was Ben, found that he developed the physical symptoms of the people whose property he held in his hands. Bill was the first person he healed "hands on". From there, he and Bill went on to test his abilities on all sorts of illnesses, and they found that cancer was something that he could easily cure.

The way most forms of energy healing seem to come into the world is that someone first spontaneously develops the ability and then someone else comes along and says "that's so cool, teach me!". The first person then says "I can't teach you -- I have no idea how I do this". And then the second person says "let's figure it out!" And that is how a system is then developed to teach the method. In fact the method is only an approximation of what the original person does, since the original person doesn't really do anything. The method is only there to set up the conditions to allow something to happen that with the original person happened spontaneously. As such, of necessity the method is already flawed because it is trying to imitate something spontaneous.

Bill was fortunate in that he was present as Ben's ability developed, because as it developed in Ben, it also developed in him. He also had Ben's undivided attention for a long time and could pepper him with questions. The "cycling" method developed out of him questioning Ben on what happened inside him when he did his healings. I have often wondered about this. I am pretty sure that Ben did not sit down and write down a list of 20 things that he wanted, created pictures out of them and then turned the pictures into an ever accelerating slide show in his head. If that is an approximation of what happened with Ben, then Ben must have been spontaneously generating images, IMHO. In fact when I originally spoke to Bill and he told me that he used "mental imaging techniques" in his healing, my brain started generating first geometric images and then images of happy people in beautiful surroundings, mothers and babies, people dancing etc. The images feel like a computer search, like something in my brain is scanning the universal mind for answers, and the images are the by-product of this search.

People like Ben somehow connect to the database that is the "universal mind". Another such person was Bob Rasmusson, the man on whose work Quantum Touch is based. The story goes that he could sit down and write any qualifying exam on any subject anywhere and pass with flying colours without studying. The interesting thing is that you would expect the Mother Teresas of this world to be making these connections, especially when it comes to healing. But most of the people who do are not Mother Teresas; in fact, quite the opposite. I suspect it takes a certain kind of brainwave activity to make the connection; the people who have it do, and and the people who don't have it don't. So when you learn Bill's method what you are most likely doing is developing the brainwave activity that will connect you to the universal mind.

Bill and Ben had a falling out when Bill decided to take the method to the lab, because Ben did not want to be "tested." Ben had also developed a religious bend by then that Bill did not agree with. He wanted to keep the method strictly secular. Ben wanted to open a church, whereas Bill wanted to go in a more scientific direction, so they had a parting of the ways. Ben died a few years ago in his 80s. And Bill went on to be famous among mice.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Bill Bengston came to teach bioenergy workshops

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).