Reiki, a japanese bi-syllabic word that means universal energy -rei- and inner vital energy -ki-, is, from the end of the nineteenth century, a laying-on-of-hands self-healing and healing technique.
During a treatment the inner and the universal energies join through the hands of the therapist; this re-union, beyond the philosophical, religious, faith or esoteric implications, fosters the physiological homeostatic processes.
Reiki is one of the several types of "energy" healing techniques such as mental healing, Qi-gong, Therapeutic Touch, psychic surgery.
As any other type of paranormal healing, it allows for distant or absent healing, too.
There is a sizeable body of evidence that all of them can influence a variety of cellular and other biological systems, and even the "inanimate matter". The target systems of the available studies have included unicellular organisms, yeast, plants, insects, laboratory animals, cellular preparations (blood cells, neurones, cancer cells), enzyme activities, water and chemical reactions, and, obviously human beings. For a detailed revision of these studies see Braud (1992), Solfvin (1984) and Benor (1990).
Some of them deserve a brief description due to the results and the well designed experimental protocol.
The effect of non-contact Therapeutic Touch on the healing rate of full thickness dermal wounds was examined in a double-blind, placebo controlled study by Wirth et al. (1993). Active and control treatments were comprised of daily sessions of 5 min of exposure to a hidden practitioner or control exposure. In addition, the subjects and the experimenter were blinded to both group assignment and to the fact that a healing study was being conducted. Four independent physicians assessed the wounds for the rate of epithelization at day 5 and day 10. The treated group subjects experienced a statistical significant acceleration of wound healing (full re-epithelization rate was 50% at day 5 and 83% at day 10) as compared to the control group (0% and 33%, respectively).
Cultured human liver cancer cells (BEL-7402) were treated by a Qi-Gong master at the Shanghai Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Yuan-Feng, 1990). The results, assessed both with cytological methods and electron microscopy, showed not only an inhibitory growth and killing effect, but also a remarkable change in the ultrastructure of the surviving cells, indicating a restoration to normal.
Another experiment on the effects of Qi-Gong is reported by Li et al. (1990). This study used a cyclophosphamide immunodepressed mouse model.
Interleukin-2 activity, as well as the hystological aspect of the thymus were significantly better in the mice receiving Qi-Gong.
Infrared spectra of sterile water samples were altered by the hands of energy healers in an experiment performed by Schwartz et al. (1991). The authors suggest that the healers could affect hydrogen bonding, either by changing the strength of the bond, or by affecting change in the proportion of hydrogen bonded molecules. In other words, the treatment changed the configurational pattern of the water molecules.
Must we try to reach a rational understanding of these phenomena, or can we remain in the wonderful and fascinating world of esotericism? As scientists we are damned to search for an explanation. In order to serve our sentence, let us take a close look at the very essence of life and at its interrelations with the environment.
Life "lives" and evolves by means of a dynamic recursive interaction between the macroscopic and microscopic (quantum) structure of the universe. Life process is an expression of measurement-like interactions (wave function collapse processes) that were ubiquitous in the early history of the universe, and determined its initial evolution, but that are negligible in the equilibrium universe, that we are inhabiting. Even if systems with a large number of nonstatic interactions undergo some spontaneous wave function collapse, it is only in the presence of sensitive amplification mechanisms such as occur in the biological cells that significant macroscopic effects occur (Conrad, 1989).
Biomacromolecules have the features requested to perform non-demolition measurements in the quantum indeterminacy and cause the multiple alternatives to "collapse" into one reality at the macroscopical level (Igamberdiev, 1993).
A living cell (like an entire living being) is an open system with a continuous flow of energy passing through it. This energy flow creates the conditions for strong deviations from thermodynamic equilibrium (Hess,1994); such a system must continually maintain itself coherent with a dynamic model of the "self".
The stability of a biosystem is connected mainly with the reliability of information processing and transfer inside it and through its multiple levels; it uses its inherent energy to re-arrange random energy sources into an ordered and information-carrying energetic pattern, coherent with its status of a living being (Webb, 1980). Microtubules have been shown to be the main subcellular structure performing this transformation by means of a "laser-like", long-range coherent quantum phenomenon, called super-radiance, that occurs in the quantum dynamical system of water molecules and the quantized electromagnetic field confined inside the hollow microtubule core.
Energy gain due to thermal fluctuation of tubulins can induce a coherent excitation of water molecules that, while losing their energy collectively, emit a pulse of coherent photons (Jibu, 1994); such signals (in the context of the cellular automata theory) have been shown theoretically capable of learning, logic and adaptation (Rasmussen 1991; Lahoz Beltra, 1993).
Information hold by these quantum events can propagate through cytoskeletal networks, membranes and extracellular matrices by means of coherent interference phenomena across multiple levels that would lead to holographic information representation (Pribram, 1991), that in its largest scale should constitute consciousness.
According to Del Giudice et al. (1986), a living system can be described as a set of macromolecules and water molecules mutually connected in a network of chemical reactions, and hence as a set of molecular dipoles immersed in a "vacuum" formed by water molecular dipoles.
The response of such a system to an electromagnetic field depends not only on the incoming signal, but also on the memory of past excitations, i.e. on the total load stored on that network.
If a single incoming photon has insufficient energy to enter the correlated region, it could be stored on the network as polarization mode. When on the network enough energy is being accumulated from different processes to reach the value of 13.60 eV, the whole polarization mode would convert into an electromagnetic field, which become confined inside filaments providing strong field gradients that can arrange selected molecules in the proper order to perform a sequence of chemical reactions.
Water, whose configurational pattern can be affected by healers, is essential to life, everyone learned this fact at the primary school, but the actual knowledge is showing that the importance of water goes far beyond its mere solvent function. Intracellular water, in its three phases, bound, vicinal, and bulk, is an active part of the cytoskeletal information processing system.
The laser-like behaviour of the water molecules confined inside microtubules has been described above.
The region surrounding the microtubule is occupied by the bound water layer which might provide some measure of quantum shielding, that is essential for the quantum/classical interface to work properly.
The vicinal water layer, that surrounds the previous one, can store certain spatial patterns originating from linear or circular waves of assembly and disassembly of the microtubules; these patterns are supposed to be the reference model for the reassembly phase.
The phenomenon of synchronous oscillations, that is unique to microtubules, can generate clocks and patterns and serve as a model for the self-organization of biomolecules in time and space (Mandelkow, 1992).
The temporal self-organization of chemical processes plays a fundamental role in living cells (Hess, 1994). The living state is an ensemble of oscillators, irrespective of the scale of our studies; periodic behaviour abounds, and is a key feature of all biological organization from the submolecular level to that of the biosphere (Lloyd, 1993). Biological clocks hold a dynamic extra-genetic information (DNA molecules are just a read-only-memory) that is implicit in the temporal organization of cellular processes.
In addition bulk water molecules are, most probably, the basic medium of coherent vibrations that subserve the holographic information transfer system that we discussed above (Hameroff, 1987).
In summary, a biological organism is a "quantum detection device", whose function is largely controlled by measurement type interactions, or "observations" of the subatomic microstat (Conrad, 1989).
The information embedded in the quantum state is magnified at macroscopical level through wave function collapse phenomena that trigger an upward chain of molecular and chemical events. In turn, this event chain alters the quantum state pattern (the hologram) through the described coherent interference processes. This holographic pattern is implicated directly in the dynamic processes of self organization, homeostasis end self referral; in brief, the preservation of life and its well-being.
The external effects of the subatomic activity of living systems have been extensively explored with different methods that, even if yet inadequate to highlight the true nature of the phenomenon, indicate not only the presence of some sort of field surrounding any living beings, but also that this field does really interact with the physical body.
At the UCLA University, Valerie Hunt (1978), using a modified electromyographic device, compared the recorded steady, low-voltage wave forms with the colours of the aura described by an "aura reader" during a body manipulation procedure known as "Rolfing". The distinctive wave forms were affected by the rolfing procedure and correlated reliably with the colours reported by the sensitive.
John Zimmerman (1985) employed a superconducting quantum interference device, a non-invasive detector of magnetic fields, to detect the effects of "healing hands" during true hands-on-healing sessions. He found that signals up to several hundred times larger than background noise appeared while the healer worked. Zimmerman speculated that healers tune into patient's electromagnetic field patterns, then adjust their own currents to produce resonant patterns. "When two physical systems -he concludes- possess the same fundamental resonant frequency, information is easily exchanged".
Jochen Edrich (1982) at the University of Colorado found that tissue under stress emits increased levels of microwave radiation. Microwave readings were decreased by light pressure applied to the area of complaint as well as to remote locations.
Bio-electric fields have been made visible by Dumitrescu (1982) with a system that converts bio-electrical field's electrons to photons. "There is nothing mysterious in these fields." Dumitrescu affirms, "They represent general properties of all living matter".
Ultraweak emission of photons from biological matter is an interesting phenomenon that is being investigated by several research groups. Recent work on germinating seeds indicate that quantitative and qualitative changes of bioluminescence reflect the homeostatic physiological state of the system and could represent the capability of living organisms to transmit and receive information by means of these photons (Grasso, 1991), or, most probably, by means of the patterns underlying this bio-optical activity.
If now we turn to the physical reality, we can describe the vital processes as a local configuration of the unified universal field; these two configurations are engaged in an incessant recursive cyclic interaction.
This picture is consistent with the description of the universe as an undivided and interacting whole, where interrelations and interactions among its component parts are more fundamental then the parts themselves.
This inseparable interconnectedness of the entire universe implies a deeper order that David Bohm defines as "unmanifest" and analogous to a dynamic hologram from which all shapes of the material universe derive.
Consciousness is, according to Bohm, an essential character of this reality, mind and matter are mutually dependent and interrelated; they are projections of a superior reality that is neither matter, nor consciousness (Bohm, 1980).
"A scientific world-view which does not profoundly come to terms with the problem of conscious minds can have no serious pretensions of completeness. Consciousness is part of our universe... writes Roger Penrose (1994, pg 8).
There is experimental and theoretic evidence that some sort of "unmanifest" information transfer does really exist. Spin measurement experiments show that, when an electron is sent to one of the two possible paths, according to its spin, and the alternative way is blocked by a screen, an "empty" wave function should travel along the blocked path and "inform" the electron about the actual situation (Albert, 1994). Similar conclusions are drawn by Akimov et al. (1993) who designed a theoretic experiment that utilizes correlated photons and a barrier placed along one of the two paths. The semitransparent mirror generates a "field disturbance" that is present in the "empty" branch too and that manifests the unique feature of carrying information while having no energy.
Science does not have a good hold on the concept of subtle life energies, such as qi, prana, orgone energy, Reiki or whatever the name.
What scientists are actually measuring (biophotons, extremely low frequency radiation or other electromagnetic emissions) are, at the best, epyphenomena of the events that should really account for the so called "energy healing", distant healing and other parapsychological events.
A sizeable body of research shows that the bulk of these phenomena overcome time and space and cannot be explained in terms of energy transmission; they are non-local events and require some more radical propositions. According to Larry Dossey's excellent paper (1994) on this subject, consciousness can be proposed instead of energy as the foundation of these events.
The concept that the experimenter's consciousness does really change the quantum reality is well known, and widely accepted today. During a quantum measurement experiment, it is the observer's "free will" that make a photon, or an electron to be a particle or to be a wave. This fact, that was evident as soon as the duality wave-particle of the subatomic constituents became a matter of fact, led to the above reported affirmations of Bohm and Penrose (among others) about the real interconnectedness between conscious minds and the physical world.
Distant mental influence and mental healing events, that have been replicated by careful observers under laboratory conditions, suggest that there is some aspect of the psyche that is unconfinable to points in space, such as brain or bodies, suggesting a nonlocal model of consciousness (Dossey, 1989).
Andrei Berezin (1994), a physicist working at Princeton University's Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory, affirms: "An extension of Heitler-London theory of paired spin interaction, along the lines of the Jahn-Dunne quantum mechanical representation of consciusness/environment interactions, can accomodate such anomalous phenomena as non-local and atemporal effects in both remote perception and human/machine experiments [and distant healing effects], as well as gender-based differential yields and "bonded" pair cooperation effects. This model proposes that consciousness' influence on a physical process is realized through the physical vacuum [Remember the "empty wave function"], wherein any elementary act of virtual particle transformation is decribed by two coupled Schrodinger equations".
The existence of non-local events at the quantum level has been established by many experiments over the past two decades, and today nonlocal events are considered factual beyond reasonable doubt. They imply that things can apparently happen in this strange world without the intervention of any conventional form of energy (Herbert,1987; Herbert, 1993).
The fact that nonlocal, acausal events happen at the subatomic level does not mean that they necessarily happen at the macroscopic level where healing is observed.
But, as we cannot yet say what the process of "healing" really is and is not, we cannot be sure that it is fundamentally not a subatomic process that is somehow amplified biologically, in which case nonlocal subatomic events might indeed be occurring.
This is Dossey's opinion (Dossey, 1994), my own is that healing is actually a subatomic process.
He is right when he wonders if what is happening at the subatomic level should necessarily entail an observable response at the macroscopic level. The answer to this basic question comes from "Shadows of the mind" of Roger Penrose (1994, pg 376-377), whose subtitle is "A search for the missing science of consciousness":
"Consciousness would be some holistic manifestation of the quantum-entangled internal cytoskeletal state (where there is, for example, a possible role for the puzzling non-locality of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen-type effects of quantum coherence, for quantum parallelism and counterfactuality) and of its involvement in the interplay between quantum and classical levels of activity. Perhaps the neural [or, best said, the whole organism] computer is poised to enact some computation that it does not actually perform, but the mere fact that it might have performed the computation causes an effect that is different from that which would be the case if it could not perform it. Thus we can conclude that it is really possible for effects of many quantum events to remain confined in the subatomic level without being amplified at the macroscopic domain. But, despite this apparent ineffectiveness, the coherent quantum system [or the energetic informative field, or the hologram], that affect the behaviour of living organisms, is actually changed and these changes will affect the next wave function collapse, that is, the magnification to the classical level, only if and only when it would probably occur. I am referring here to the wave function of a coherent quantum system, not just of particles, atoms or even small molecules, that retains its manifest quantum nature at a much larger scale (phenomenon that is possible only at ultra low temperatures and inside the living matter) and that collapses, eventually, when considerable amounts of material become entangled in the quantum state"(Penrose, 1994, page 351); this is exactly the point where the "science of consciousness is missing".
The concept of the reconnection of the inner vital energy with the universal one, that is explicit in the Reiki tradition, can perhaps explain another inexplicable fact that is common to the healing techniques we are dealing with: health, mind or mood conditions of the healer seem have no influence on the quality of healing effects; that is, "wrong information" or "ill energies" are never exchanged between the healer and the healee, irrespective of the health status of the former.
If we refer to the Buddhist wisdom (from which the Reiki derives), as well as to Zen and Tao, we can define illness as some sort of separation or division of our true nature from the cosmic undivided consciousness. Let's skip the psychological implications, and let's imagine the universal energy as a river and the human beings as arms of this river; the water of a dammed arm becomes putrid. In this picture, Reiki treatments open the dam; it is not a matter of quality of the delivered energy (or anyhow we would like to call it), it is a tuning process that expands the awareness beyond the limits set by the common sense of the self.