Science and the Human Energy Field

James L. Oschman, Ph.D. is interviewed by William Lee Rand

James Oschman is one of the leading authorities on the scientific understanding of hands-on healing. His extensive background as a scientist and his experience and understanding of holistic healing place him in a unique position to bridge the gap between the academic/medical world and the healing community. His book, Energy Medicine, and his soon-to-be-released new book, Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance, are remarkable in the way they easily convey a scientific basis for hands-on healing. His work makes it easy for doctors and scientists to understand and accept Reiki, which is valuable for anyone wanting to place Reiki in hospitals or to work in a clinical or scientific setting. His fascinating ideas and insights give a new perspective on how Reiki works which inspires us to make better use of our skills.

WLR: Has the human energy field (HEF) been demonstrated to exist and can you tell us about the studies that are the most scientifically valid? What instruments have been used and how have measurements been made?

JLO: In a few decades scientists went from a conviction that there is no such thing as an energy field around the human body to a certainty that such fields exist and are medically important. Now doctors are making treatment decisions on the basis of these biofield measurements.

Since living tissues are conductors of electricity, the well-established laws of physics require that the currents set up by the heart and other muscles, and the brain and peripheral nerves, will produce fields in the space around the body. These are called biomagnetic fields.

The biomagnetic field of the heart was first measured in Syracuse, New York, in 1963, using two coils, each with two million turns of wire. At about the same time these measurements were being made, a discovery took place in Cambridge, England that revolutionized biomagnetic field measurements and led to a Nobel Prize for Brian Josephson a decade later. Josephson's discovery led to the development of a very sensitive magnetometer called a SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device). These magnetometers are now used in medical research labs worldwide to study the human energy field.

It is important to appreciate that the standard methods of recording electrical fields with electrodes on the skin surface (as in the electrocardiogram and electroencephalogram) provide much less information than the corresponding biomagnetic measurements. The reason for this is that the electrical resistances of the various tissues vary by a factor of about thirty. Bioelectric fields generated within the body by tissues such as the heart and brain take the paths of least electrical resistance, so the patterns measured at the body surface are sort of smeared out and difficult to interpret. In contrast, the magnetic permeabilities of the various tissues are all about the same as in a vacuum. In essence, the tissues are transparent to magnetic fields. So the biomagnetic measurements are a lot more informative about what is happening inside the body than are the bioelectric measurements.

This is an important point for energy therapists because a magnetic sense, if it exists, will provide much more information on what is going on within the body than will measurements of electrical fields from electrodes on the skin surface. And there is a good scientific basis for the existence of a magnetic sense in the human body. In fact, scientists from Milan, Italy have shown that tissues may exhibit the same Josephson effect that is the basis for the SQUID magnetometer.

WLR: Is there a biological basis for some people being able to see or otherwise sense the HEF?

JLO: There is an effect in physics that is also named for Michael Faraday and is called the Faraday Effect. Magnetic fields alter the polarization of light. Now, the eye is very sensitive to the polarization of light, and I believe some people have the ability to sense the energy field of the body by tuning into the way the field alters the polarization of light. Some people are born with a heightened sensitivity of this kind and others pick it up later in life. I think it is this kind of vision that enables some people to see the layering of the human energy field.

Another mechanism that may be involved is the discovery by a number of scientists that the retina of the eye is a magnetic receptor as well as a light receptor. Some of the best research has been on honey bees. They use magnetic information for navigation. This research is quite sophisticated in that neurophysiologists have found specific nerves from the eye that send signals when a magnet is brought close to the eye. Whether the visual system can actually form a magnetic image of its environment is an interesting topic for further study.

The two approaches give somewhat different kinds of information about the human energy field. My goal is to see how these observations can be fitted together to provide a more complete picture than either approach can provide alone, and this is precisely what is happening.

WLR: The Reiki attunement is a unique part of Reiki training. A person does not have to train to gain the ability to give Reiki energy treatments. The ability is passed on to the student through an attunement process given by the teacher. The attunement seems to turn on the student's ability to channel Reiki and there is a noticeable difference in the strength of healing energy students have before and after the attunement. Is there anything in your understanding of biology or science that would provide an explanation for how this is possible?

JLO: As with other aspects of energy medicine, it is possible to suggest hypotheses for testing. My suspicion is that what is being passed during the attunement process is a frequency or a set of frequencies that can be transferred from a teacher to a student via the energy field and that will always be remembered by the student. The memory process is probably similar to that involved in homeopathy, in which the electromagnetic signature of a substance is transferred to water. While some scientists have viewed the idea of memory in water with great suspicion, others are doing research to find out how it works. Some good hypotheses have been developed for this. The human body contains a water system that is a veritable antenna for fields in the environment, and it could well be this water system that picks up the frequencies and remembers them much as water can remember the signal from a homeopathic remedy.

This is an excerpt from an article in the Winter 2002 issue of Reiki News Magazine.