4 - I Sing the Body
You will hardly know who 1 am or
what I mean. But I shall be good health to you nevertheless. . .
• Walt Whitman,
“Song of Myself"
A sixty-one-year-old man we’ll call
Frank was diagnosed as having an almost always fatal form of throat
cancer and told he had less than a 5 percent chance of surviving.
His weight had dropped from 130 to 98 pounds. He was extremely weak,
could barely swallow his own saliva, and was having trouble
breathing. Indeed, his doctors had debated whether to give him
radiation therapy at all, because there was a distinct possibility
the treatment would only add to his discomfort without significantly
increasing his chances for survival. They decided to proceed anyway.
Then, to Frank’s great good fortune, Dr. O. Carl Simonton, a
radiation oncologist and medical director of the Cancer Counseling
and Research Center in Dallas, Texas, was asked to participate in
his treatment Simonton suggested that Frank himself could influence
the course of his own disease. Simonton then taught Frank a number
of relaxation and mental-imagery techniques he and his colleagues
From that point on, three times a day, Frank pictured
the radiation he received as consisting of millions of tiny bullets
of energy bombarding his cells. He also visualized his cancer cells
as weaker and more confused than his normal cells, and thus unable
to repair the damage they suffered. Then he visualized his body’s
white blood cells, the soldiers of the immune system, coming in,
swarming over the dead and dying cancer cells, and carrying them to
his liver and kidneys to be flushed out of his body.
The results were dramatic and far exceeded what usually happened in
such cases when patients were treated solely with radiation. The
radiation treatments worked like magic. Frank experienced almost
none of the negative side effects - damage to skin and mucous
membranes - that normally accompanied such therapy. He regained his
lost weight and his strength, and in a mere two months all signs of
his cancer had vanished. Simonton believes Frank’s remarkable
recovery was due in large part to his daily regimen of visualization
In a follow-up study, Simonton and his colleagues taught their
mental-imagery techniques to 159 patients with cancers considered
medically incurable. The expected survival time for such a patient
is twelve months. Four years later 63 of the patients were still
alive. Of those, 14 showed no evidence of disease, the cancers were
regressing in 12, and in 17 the disease was stable.
survival time of the group as a whole was 24.4 months, over twice as
long as the national norm.1
Simonton has since conducted a number of similar studies, all with
positive results. Despite such promising findings, his work is still
considered controversial. For instance, critics argue that the
individuals who participate in Simonton’s studies are not “average”
patients. Many of them have sought Simonton out for the express
purpose of learning his techniques, and this shows that they already
have an extraordinary fighting spirit.
Nonetheless, many researchers
find Simonton’s results compelling enough to support his work, and
Simonton himself has set up the Simonton Cancer Center, a successful
research and treatment facility in Pacific Palisades, California,
devoted to teaching imagery techniques to patients who are fighting
various illnesses. The therapeutic use of imagery has also captured
the imagination of the public, and a recent survey revealed that it
was the fourth most frequently used alternative treatment for
How is it that an image formed in the mind can have an effect on
something as formidable as an incurable cancer? Not surprisingly the
holographic theory of the brain can be used to explain this
phenomenon as well. Psychologist Jeanne Achterberg, director of
research and rehabilitation science at the University of Texas
Health Science Center in Dallas, Texas, and one of the scientists
who helped develop the imagery techniques Simonton uses, believes it
is the holographic imaging capabilities of the brain that provide
As has been noted, all experiences are ultimately just neurophysiological
processes taking place in the brain. According to the holographic
model the reason we experience some things, such as emotions, as
internal realities and others, such as the songs of birds and the
barking of dogs, as external realities is because that is where the
brain localizes them when it creates the internal hologram that we
experience as reality.
However, as we have also seen, the brain
cannot always distinguish between what is “out there” and what it
believes to be “out there,” and that is why amputees sometimes have
phantom limb sensations. Put another way, in a brain that operates
holographically, the remembered image of a thing can have as much
impact on the senses as the thing itself.
It can also have an equally powerful effect on the body’s
physiology, a state of affairs that has been experienced firsthand
by anyone who has ever felt their heart race after imagining hugging
a loved one. Or anyone who has ever felt their palms grow sweaty
after conjuring up the memory of some unusually frightening
At first glance the fact that the body cannot always
distinguish between an imagined event and a real one may seem
strange, but when one takes the holographic model into account - a
model that asserts that all experiences, whether real or imagined,
are reduced to the same common language of holographically organized
wave forms - the situation becomes much less puzzling.
Or as Achterberg puts it,
“When images are regarded in the holographic
manner, their omnipotent influence on physical function logically
follows. The image, the behavior, and the physiological concomitants
are a unified aspect of the same phenomenon.”3
Bohm uses his idea of the implicate order, the deeper and nonlocal
level of existence from which our entire universe springs, to echo
“Every action starts from an intention in the
implicate order. The imagination is already the creation of the
form; it already has the intention and the germs of all the
movements needed to carry it out And it affects the body and so on,
so that as creation takes place in that way from the subtler levels
of the implicate order, it goes through them until it manifests in
In other words, in the implicate order,
as in the brain itself, imagination and reality are ultimately
indistinguishable, and it should therefore come as no surprise to us
that images in the mind can ultimately manifest as realities in the
Achterberg found that the physiological effects produced through the
use of imagery are not only powerful, but can also be extremely
specific. For example, the term white blood cell actually refers to
a number of different kinds of cell. In one study, Achterberg
decided to see if she could train individuals to increase the number
of only one particular type of white blood cell in their body. To do
this she taught one group of college students how to image a cell
known as a neutrophil, the major constituent of the white blood cell
She trained a second group to image T-cells, a more
specialized kind of white blood cell. At the end of the study the
group that learned the neutrophil imagery had a significant increase
in the number of neutrophils in their body, but no change in the
number of T-cells. The group that learned to image T-cells had a
significant increase in the number of that kind of cell, but the
number of neutrophils in their body remained the same.5
Achterberg says that belief is also critical to a person’s health.
As she points out, virtually everyone who has had contact with the
medical world knows at least one story of a patient who was sent
home to die, but because they “believed” otherwise, they astounded
their doctors by completely recovering. In her fascinating book
Imagery in Healing she describes several of her own encounters with
such cases. In one, a woman was comatose on admission, paralyzed,
and diagnosed with a massive brain tumor.
She underwent surgery to
“debulk” her tumor (remove as much as is safely possible), but
because she was considered close to death, she was sent home without
receiving either radiation or chemotherapy.
Instead of promptly dying, the woman became stronger by the day. As
her biofeedback therapist, Achterberg was able to monitor the
woman’s progress, and by the end of sixteen months the woman showed
no evidence of cancer.
Although the woman was intelligent in a
worldly sense, she was only moderately educated and did not really
know the meaning of the word tumor - or the death sentence it
imparted. Hence, she did not believe she was going to die and
overcame her cancer with the same confidence and determination she’d
used to overcome every other illness in her life, says Achterberg.
When Achterberg saw her last, the woman no longer had any traces of
paralysis, had thrown away her leg braces and her cane, and had even
been out dancing a couple of times.6
(missing pages 86 and 87)
Breznitz found that the stress hormone levels in the soldiers’ blood
always reflected their estimates and not the actual distance they
had marched.10 In other
words, their bodies responded not to reality, but to what they were
imaging as reality.
According to Dr. Charles A. Garfield, a former National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) researcher and current president of
the Performance Sciences Institute in Berkeley, California, the
Soviets have extensively researched the relationship between imagery
and physical performance. In one study a phalanx of world-class
Soviet athletes was divided into four groups.
The first group spent
100 percent of their training time in training. The second spent 75
percent of their time training and 25 percent of their time
visualizing the exact movements and accomplishments they wanted to
achieve in their sport. The third spent 50 percent of their time
training and 50 percent visualizing, and the fourth spent 25 percent
training and 75 percent visualizing.
Unbelievably, at the 1980
Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York, the fourth group showed the
greatest improvement in performance, followed by groups three, two,
and one, in that order.11
Garfield, who has spent hundreds of hours interviewing athletes and
sports researchers around the world, says that the Soviets have
incorporated sophisticated imagery techniques into many of their
athletic programs and that they believe mental images act as
precursors in the process of generating neuromuscular impulses.
Garfield believes imagery works because movement is recorded
holographically in the brain.
In his book Peak Performance: Mental
Training Techniques of the World’s Greatest Athletes, he states,
“These images are holographic and function primarily at the
subliminal level. The holographic imaging mechanism enables you to
quickly solve spatial problems such as assembling a complex machine,
choreographing a dance routine, or running visual images of plays
through your mind.”12
Australian psychologist Alan Richardson has obtained similar results
with basketball players. He took three groups of basketball players
and tested their ability to make free throws. Then he instructed the
first group to spend twenty minutes a day practicing free throws. He
told the second group not to practice, and had the third group spend
twenty minutes a day visualizing that they were shooting perfect
As might be expected, the group that did nothing showed no
The first group improved 24 percent, but through the
power of imagery alone, the third group improved an astonishing 23
percent, almost as much as the group that practiced.13
The Lack of Division Between Health and
Physician Larry Dossey believes that imagery is not the only tool
the holographic mind can use to effect changes in the body.
is simply the recognition of the unbroken wholeness of all things.
As Dossey observes, we have a tendency to view illness as external
to us. Disease comes from without and besieges us, upsetting our
well-being. But if space and time, and all other things in the
universe, are truly inseparable, then we cannot make a distinction
between health and disease.
How can we put this knowledge to practical use in our lives?
stop seeing illness as something separate and instead view it as
part of a larger whole, as a milieu of behavior, diet, sleep,
exercise patterns, and various other relationships with the world at
large, we often get better, says Dossey. As evidence he calls
attention to a study in which chronic headache sufferers were asked
to keep a diary of the frequency and severity of their headaches.
Although the record was intended to be a first step in preparing the
headache sufferers for further treatment, most of the subjects found
that when they began to keep a diary, their headaches disappeared!14
In another experiment cited by Dossey, a group of epileptic children
and their families were videotaped as they interacted with one an
other. Occasionally, there were emotional outbursts during the
sessions, which were often followed by actual seizures. When the
children were shown the tapes and saw the relationship between these
emotional events and their seizures, they became almost
"By keeping a diary or watching a videotape, the subjects were
able to see their condition in relationship to the larger pattern of
their lives. When this happens, illness can no longer be viewed “as
an” intruding disease originating elsewhere, but as part of a
process of living which can accurately be described as an unbroken
whole,” says Dossey. “When our focus is toward a principle of
relatedness and oneness, and away from fragmentation and isolation,
Dossey feels the word patient is as misleading as the word particle.
Instead of being separate and fundamentally isolated biological
units, we are essentially dynamic processes and patterns that are no
more analyzable into parts than are electrons. More than this, we
are connected, connected to the forces that create both sickness and
health, to the beliefs of our society, to the attitudes of our
friends, our family, and our doctors, and to the images, beliefs,
and even the very words we use to apprehend the universe.
In a holographic universe we are also connected to our bodies, and
in the preceding pages we have seen some of the ways these
connections manifest themselves. But there are others, perhaps even
an infinity of others.
As Pribram states,
“If indeed every part of
our body is a reflection of the whole, then there must be all kinds
of mechanisms to control what’s going on. Nothing is firm at this
Given our ignorance
in the matter, instead of asking how the mind controls the body
holographic, perhaps a more important question is,
What is the
extent of this control?
Are there any limitations on it, and if so,
what are they?
That is the question to which we now turn our
The Healing Power of Nothing at All
Another medical phenomenon
that provides us with a tantalizing glimpse of the control the mind
has over the body is the placebo effect.
A placebo is any medical
treatment that has no specific action on the body but is given
either to humor a patient, or as a control in a double-blind
experiment, that is, a study in which one group of individuals is
given a real treatment and another group is given a fake treatment.
In such experiments neither the researchers nor the individuals
being tested know which group they are in so that the effects of the
real treatment can be assessed more accurately. Sugar pills are
often used as placebos in drug studies. So is saline solution
(distilled water with salt in it), although placebos need not always
be drugs. Many believe that any medical benefit derived from
crystals, copper bracelets, and other nontraditional remedies is
also due to the placebo effect.
Even surgery has been used as a placebo.
In the 1950s, angina
pectoris, recurrent pain in the chest and left arm due to decreased
blood flow to the heart, was commonly treated with surgery. Then
some resourceful doctors decided to conduct an experiment. Rather
than perform the customary surgery, which involved tying off the
mammary artery, they cut patients open and then simply sewed them
back up again. The patients who received the sham surgery reported
just as much relief as the patients who had the full surgery. The
full surgery, as it turned out, was only producing a placebo effect.18
Nonetheless, the success of the sham surgery indicates that
somewhere deep in all of us we have the ability to control angina
And that is not all. In the last half century the placebo effect has
been extensively researched in hundreds of different studies around
the world. We now know that on average 35 percent of all people who
receive a given placebo will experience a significant effect
although this number can vary greatly from situation to situation.
In addition to angina pectoris, conditions that have proved
responsive to placebo treatment include migraine headaches,
allergies, fever, the common cold, acne, asthma, warts, various
kinds of pain, nausea and seasickness, peptic ulcers, psychiatric
syndromes such as depression and anxiety, rheumatoid and
degenerative arthritis, diabetes, radiation sickness, Parkinsonism,
multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
Clearly these range from the not so serious to the life threatening,
but placebo effects on even the mildest conditions may involve
physiological changes that are near miraculous. Take, for example,
the lowly wart. Warts are a small tumorous growth on the skin caused
by a virus. They are also extremely easy to cure through the use of
placebos, as is evidenced by the nearly endless folk rituals - ritual
itself being a kind of placebo - that are used by various cultures to
get rid of them.
Lewis Thomas, president emeritus of
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, tells of one physician
who regularly rid his patients of warts simply by painting a
harmless purple dye on them.
Thomas feels that explaining this small
miracle by saying it’s just the unconscious mind at work doesn’t
begin to do the placebo effect justice.
“If my unconscious can
figure out how to manipulate the mechanisms needed for getting
around that virus, and for deploying all the various cells in the
correct order for tissue rejection, then all I have to say is that
my unconscious is a lot further along than I am,” he states.19
The effectiveness of a placebo in any given circumstance also varies
greatly. In nine double-blind studies comparing placebos to aspirin,
placebos proved to be 54 percent as effective as the actual
analgesic.20 From this one
might expect that placebos would be even less effective when
compared to a much stronger painkiller such as morphine, but this is
not the case.
In six double-blind studies placebos were found to be
56 percent as effective as morphine in relieving pain! 21
One factor that can affect the
effectiveness of a placebo is the method in which it is given.
Injections are generally perceived as more potent than pills, and
hence giving a placebo in an injection can enhance its
Similarly, capsules are often seen as more effective
than tablets, and even the size, shape, and color of a pill can play
a role. In a study designed to determine the suggestive value of a
pill’s color, researchers found that people tend to view yellow or
orange pills as mood manipulators, either stimulants or depressants.
Dark red pills are assumed to be sedatives; lavender pills,
hallucinogens; and white pills, painkillers.22
Another factor is the attitude the doctor conveys when he prescribes
the placebo. Dr. David Sobel, a placebo specialist at Kaiser
Hospital, California, relates the story of a doctor treating an
asthma patient who was having an unusually difficult time keeping
his bronchial tubes open. The doctor ordered a sample of a potent
new medicine from a pharmaceutical company and gave it to the man.
Within minutes the man showed
spectacular improvement and breathed more easily. However, the next
time he had an attack, the doctor decided to see what would happen
if he gave the man a placebo. This time the man complained that
there must be something wrong with the prescription because it
didn’t completely eliminate his breathing difficulty. This convinced
the doctor that the sample drug was indeed a potent new asthma
medication - until he received a letter from the pharmaceutical
company informing him that instead of the new drug, they had
accidentally sent him a placebo.!
was the doctor’s unwitting enthusiasm for the first placebo, and not
the second, that accounted for the discrepancy.23
In terms of the holographic model, the man’s remarkable response to
the placebo asthma medication can again be explained by the mind/body’s ultimate inability to distinguish between an imagined reality
and a real one. The man believed he was being given a powerful new
asthma drug, and this belief had as dramatic a physiological effect
on his lungs as if he had been given a real drug.
warning that the neural holograms that impact on our health are
varied and multifaceted is also underscored by the fact that even
something as subtle as the doctor’s slightly different attitude (and
perhaps body language) while administering the two placebos was
enough to cause one to work and the other to fail. It is clear from
this that even information received subliminally can contribute
greatly to the beliefs and mental images that impact on our health.
One wonders how many drugs have worked (or not worked) because of
the attitude the doctor conveyed while administering them.
Tumors That Melt Like Snowballs on a
Understanding the role such factors play in a placebo’s
effectiveness is important, for it shows how our ability to control
the body holographic is molded by our beliefs.
Our minds have the
power to get rid of warts, to clear our bronchial tubes, and to
mimic the painkilling ability of morphine, but because we are
unaware that we possess the power, we must be fooled into using it.
This might almost be comic if it were not for the tragedies that
often result from our ignorance of our own power.
No incident better illustrates this than a now famous case reported
by psychologist Bruno Klopfer. Klopfer was treating a man named
Wright who had advanced cancer of the lymph nodes. All standard
treatments had been exhausted, and Wright appeared to have little
time left. His neck, armpits, chest, abdomen, and groin were filled
with tumors the size of oranges, and his spleen and liver were so
enlarged that two quarts of milky fluid had to be drained out of his
chest every day.
But Wright did not want to die. He had heard about an exciting new
drug called Krebiozen, and he begged his doctor to let him try it.
At first his doctor refused because the drug was only being tried on
people with a life expectancy of at least three months. But Wright
was so unrelenting in his entreaties, his doctor finally gave in.
gave Wright an injection of Krebiozen on Friday, but in his heart of
hearts he did not expect Wright to last the weekend. Then the doctor
To his surprise, on the following Monday he found Wright out of bed
and walking around. Klopfer reported that his tumors had “melted
like snowballs on a hot stove” and were half their original size.
This was a far more rapid decrease in size than even the strongest
X-ray treatments could have accomplished. Ten days after Wright’s
first Krebiozen treatment, he left the hospital and was, as far as
his doctors could tell, cancer free. When he had entered the
hospital he had needed an oxygen mask to breathe, but when he left
he was well enough to fly his own plane at 12,000 feet with no
Wright remained well for about two months, but then articles began
to appear asserting that Krebiozen actually had no effect on cancer
of the lymph nodes. Wright, who was rigidly logical and scientific
in his thinking, became very depressed, suffered a relapse, and was
readmitted to the hospital. This time his physician decided to try
an experiment. He told Wright that Krebiozen was every bit as
effective as it had seemed, but that some of the initial supplies of
the drug had deteriorated during shipping. He explained, however,
that he had a new highly concentrated version of the drug and could
treat Wright with this.
Of course the physician did not have a new
version of the drug and intended to inject Wright with plain water.
To create the proper atmosphere he even went through an elaborate
procedure before injecting Wright with the placebo.
Again the results were dramatic. Tumor masses melted, chest fluid
vanished, and Wright was quickly back on his feet and feeling great.
He remained symptom-free for another two months, but then the
American Medical Association announced that a nationwide study of
Krebiozen had found the drug worthless in the treatment of cancer.
This time Wright’s faith was completely shattered.
blossomed anew and he died two days later.24
Wright’s story is tragic, but it contains a powerful message: When
we are fortunate enough to bypass our disbelief and tap the healing
forces within us, we can cause tumors to melt away overnight.
In the case of Krebiozen only one person was involved, but there are
similar cases involving many more people. Take a chemotherapeutic
agent called cis-platinum. When cis-platinum first became available
it, too, was touted as a wonder drug, and 75 percent of the people
who received it benefited from the treatment. But after the initial
wave of excitement and the use of cis-platinum became more routine,
its rate of effectiveness dropped to about 25 to 30 percent.
Apparently most of the benefit obtained from
cis-platinum was due to
the placebo effect.25
Do Any Drugs Really Work?
Such incidents raise an important
question. If drugs such as Krebiozen and cis-platinum work when we
believe in them and stop working when we stop believing in them,
what does this imply about the nature of drugs in general?
This is a
difficult question to answer, but we do have some clues. For
instance, physician Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School points
out that the vast majority of treatments prescribed prior to this
century, from leeching to consuming lizard’s blood, were useless,
but because of the placebo effect, they were no doubt helpful at
least some of the time.26
Benson, along with Dr. David P. McCallie, Jr., of Harvard’s
Thorn-dike Laboratory, reviewed studies of various treatments for
angina pectoris that have been prescribed over the years and
discovered that although remedies have come and gone, the success
rates - even for treatments that are now discredited - have always
two observations it is evident that the placebo effect has played an
important role in medicine in the past, but does it still play a
role today? The answer, it seems, is yes. The federal Office of
Technology Assessment estimates that more than 75 percent of all
current medical treatments have not been subjected to sufficient
scientific scrutiny, a figure that suggests that doctors may still
be giving placebos and not know it (Benson, for one, believes that,
at the very least, many over-the-counter medications act primarily
Given the evidence we have looked at so far, one might almost wonder
if all drugs are placebos. Clearly the answer is no. Many drugs are
effective whether we believe in them or not: Vitamin C gets rid of
scurvy, and insulin makes diabetics better even when they are
skeptical. But still the issue is not quite as clear-cut as it may
Consider the following.
In a 1962 experiment Drs. Harriet Linton and Robert Langs told test
subjects they were going to participate in a study of the effects of
LSD, but then gave them a placebo instead. Nonetheless, half an hour
after taking the placebo, the subjects began to experience the
classic symptoms of the actual drug, loss of control, supposed
insight into the meaning of existence, and so on. These “placebo
trips” lasted several hours.29
A few years later, in 1966, the now infamous Harvard psychologist
Richard Alpert journeyed to the East to look for holy men who could
offer him insight into the LSD experience. He found several who were
willing to sample the drug and, interestingly, received a variety of
reactions. One pundit told him it was good, but not as good as
Another, a Tibetan lama, complained that it only gave
him a headache.
But the reaction that fascinated Alpert most came from a wizened
little holy man in the foothills of the Himalayas. Because the man
was over sixty, Alpert’s first inclination was to give him a gentle
dose of 50 to 75 micrograms. But the man was much more interested in
one of the 305 microgram pills Alpert had brought with him, a
relatively sizable dose.
Reluctantly, Alpert gave him one of the
pills, but still the man was not satisfied. With a twinkle in his
eye he requested another and then another and placed all 915
micrograms of LSD on his tongue, a massive dose by any standard, and
swallowed them (in comparison, the average dose Grof used in his
studies was about 200 micrograms).
Aghast, Alpert watched intently, expecting the man to start waving
his arms and whooping like a banshee, but instead he behaved as if
nothing had happened. He remained that way for the rest of the day,
his demeanor as serene and unperturbed as it always was, save for
the twinkling glances he occasionally tossed Alpert. The LSD
apparently had little or no effect on him.
Alpert was so moved by
the experience he gave up LSD, changed his name to Ram Dass, and
converted to mysticism.30
And so taking a placebo may well produce the same effect as taking
the real drug, and taking the real drug might produce no effect.
This topsy-turvy state of affairs has also been demonstrated in
experiments involving amphetamines. In one study, ten subjects were
placed in each of two rooms. In the first room, nine were given a
stimulating amphetamine and the tenth a sleep-producing barbiturate.
In the second room the situation was reversed.
In both instances,
the person singled out behaved exactly as his companions did. In the
first room instead of falling asleep the lone barbiturate taker
became animated and speedy, and in the second room the lone
amphetamine taker fell asleep.31
There is also a case on record of a man
addicted to the stimulant Ritalin, whose addiction is then
transferred to a placebo. In other words, the man’s doctor enabled
him to avoid all the usual unpleasantries of Ritalin withdrawal by
secretly replacing his prescription with sugar pills. Unfortunately
the man then went on to display an addiction to the placebo! 32
Such events are not limited to experimental situations. Placebos
also play a role in our everyday lives. Does caffeine keep you awake
at night? Research has shown that even an injection of caffeine
won’t keep caffeine-sensitive individuals awake if they believe they
are receiving a sedative.33
Has an antibiotic ever helped you get over a cold or sore throat? If
so, you were experiencing the placebo effect.
All colds are caused
by viruses, as are several types of sore throat, and antibiotics are
only effective against bacterial infections, not viral infections.
Have you ever experienced an unpleasant side effect after taking a
medication? In a study of a tranquilizer called mephenesin,
researchers found that 10 to 20 percent of the test subjects
experienced negative side effects - including nausea, itchy rash, and
heart palpitations - regardless of whether they were given the actual
drug or a placebo.* 34
* Of course I am by
all means not suggesting that all drug side effects are
the result of the placebo effect. Should you experience a negative
reaction to a drug, always consult a physician.
Similarly, in a recent study of a new
kind of chemotherapy, 30 percent of the individuals in the control
group, the group given placebos, lost their hair.35
So if you know someone who is taking chemotherapy, tell them to try
to be optimistic in their expectations. The mind is a powerful
In addition to offering us a glimpse of this power, placebos also
support a more holographic approach to understanding the mind/body
relationship. As health and nutrition columnist Jane Brody observes
in an article in the New York Times,
“The effectiveness of placebos
provides dramatic support for a ‘holistic’ view of the human
organism, a view that is receiving increasing attention in medical
research. This view holds that the mind and body continually
interact and are too closely interwoven to be treated as independent
The placebo effect may also be affecting us in far vaster ways than
we realize, as is evidenced by a recent and extremely puzzling
medical mystery. If you have watched any television at all in the
last year or so, you have no doubt seen a blitzkrieg of commercials
promoting aspirin’s ability to decrease the risk of heart attack.
There is a good deal of convincing evidence to back this up,
otherwise television censors, who are real sticklers for accuracy
when it comes to medical claims in commercials, wouldn’t allow such
copy on the air. This is all well and good.
The only problem is that
aspirin doesn’t seem to have the same effect on people in England. A
six-year study of 5,139 British doctors revealed no evidence that
aspirin reduces the risk of heart attack.37
Is there a flaw in somebody’s research, or is it possible that some
kind of massive placebo effect is to blame?
Whatever the case, don’t
stop believing in the prophylactic benefits of aspirin. It still may
save your life.
The Health Implications of Multiple
Another condition that
graphically illustrates the mind’s power to affect the body is
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). In addition to possessing
different brain-wave patterns, the subpersonalities of a multiple
have a strong psychological separation from one another.
Each has his own name, age, memories, and abilities. Often each also
has his own style of handwriting, announced gender, cultural and
racial background, artistic talents, foreign language fluency, and
Even more noteworthy are the biological changes that take place in a
multiple’s body when they switch personalities. Frequently a medical
condition possessed by one personality will mysteriously vanish when
another personality takes over.
Dr. Bennett Braun of the
International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality, in
Chicago, has documented a case in which all of a patient’s subpersonalities were allergic to orange juice, except one. If the
man drank orange juice when one of his allergic personalities was in
control, he would break out in a terrible rash. But if he switched
to his non-allergic personality, the rash would instantly start to
fade and he could drink orange juice freely.38
Dr. Francine Rowland, a Yale psychiatrist who specializes in
treating multiples, relates an even more striking incident
concerning one multiple’s reaction to a wasp sting. On the occasion
in question, the man showed up for his scheduled appointment with
Rowland with his eye completely swollen shut from a wasp sting.
Realizing he needed medical attention, Howland called an
Unfortunately, the soonest the opthalmologist could
see the man was an hour later, and because the man was in severe
pain, Howland decided to try something. As it turned out, one of the
man’s alternates was an “anesthetic personality” who felt absolutely
no pain. Howland had the anesthetic personality take control of the
body, and the pain ended. But something else also happened.
time the man arrived at his appointment with the ophthalmologist,
the swelling was gone and his eye had returned to normal. Seeing no
need to treat him, the ophthalmologist sent him home.
After a while, however, the anesthetic personality relinquished
control of the body, and the man’s original personality returned,
along with all the pain and swelling of the wasp sting. The next day
he went back to the ophthalmologist to at last be treated.
Rowland nor her patient had told the ophthalmologist that the man
was a multiple, and after treating him, the ophthalmologist
“He thought time was playing tricks on him.”
Rowland laughed. “He just wanted to make sure that I had actually
called him the day before and he had not imagined it”39
Allergies are not the only thing multiples can switch on and off. If
there was any doubt as to the control the unconscious mind has over
drug effects, it is banished by the pharmacological wizardry of the
By changing personalities, a multiple who is drunk can
instantly become sober. Different personalities also respond
differently to different drugs. Braun records a case in which 5
milligrams of diazepam, a tranquilizer, sedated one personality,
while 100 milligrams had little or no effect on another. Often one
or several of a multiple’s personalities are children, and if an
adult personality is given a drug and then a child’s personality
takes over, the adult dosage may be too much for the child and
result in an overdose.
It is also difficult to anesthetize some
multiples, and there are accounts of multiples waking up on the
operating table after one of their “unanesthetizable”
subpersonalities has taken over.
Other conditions that can vary from personality to personality
include scars, burn marks, cysts, and left- and right-handedness.
Visual acuity can differ, and some multiples have to carry two or
three different pairs of eyeglasses to accommodate their alternating
personalities. One personality can be color-blind and another not,
and even eye color can change. There are cases of women who have two
or three menstrual periods each month because each of their
subpersonalities has its own cycle.
Speech pathologist Christy
Ludlow has found that the voice pattern for each of a multiple’s
personalities is different, a feat that requires such a deep
physiological change that even the most accomplished actor cannot
alter his voice enough to disguise his voice pattern.40
One multiple, admitted to a hospital for diabetes, baffled her
doctors by showing no symptoms when one of her non-diabetic
personalities was in control.41
There are accounts of epilepsy coming and going with changes in
personality, and psychologist Robert A. Phillips, Jr., reports that
even tumors can appear and disappear (although he does not specify
what kind of tumors).42
Multiples also tend to heal faster than normal individuals. For
example, there are several cases on record of third-degree burns
healing with extraordinary rapidity. Most eerie of all, at least one
researcher - Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, the therapist whose pioneering
treatment of Sybil Dorsett was portrayed in the book Sybil - is
convinced that multiples don’t age as fast as other people.
How could such things be?
At a recent symposium on the multiple
personality syndrome, a multiple named Cassandra provided a possible
answer. Cassandra attributes her own rapid healing ability both to
the visualization techniques she practices and to something she
calls parallel processing. As she explained, even when her alternate
personalities are not in control of her body, they are still aware.
This enables her to “think” on a multitude of different channels at
once, to do things like work on several different term papers
simultaneously, and even “sleep” while other personalities prepare
her dinner and clean her house.
Hence, whereas normal people only do healing imagery exercises two
or three times a day, Cassandra does them around the clock. She even
has a subpersonality named Celese who possesses a thorough knowledge
of anatomy and physiology, and whose sole function is to spend
twenty-four hours a day meditating and imaging the body’s
well-being. According to Cassandra, it is this full-time attention
to her health that gives her an edge over normal people. Other
multiples have made similar claims.43
We are deeply attached to the inevitability of things. If we have
bad vision, we believe we will have bad vision for life, and if we
suffer from diabetes, we do not for a moment think our condition
might vanish with a change in mood or thought. But the phenomenon of
multiple personality challenges this belief and offers further
evidence of just how much our psychological states can affect the
If the psyche of an individual with MPD is a kind of
multiple image hologram, it appears that the body is one as well,
and can switch from one biological state to another as rapidly as
the flutter of a deck of cards.
The systems of control that must be in place to account for such
capacities is mind-boggling and makes our ability to will away a
wart look pale. Allergic reaction to a wasp sting is a complex and
multi-faceted process and involves the organized activity of
antibodies, the production of histamine, the dilation and rupture of
blood vessels, the excessive release of immune substances, and so
What unknown pathways of influence
enable the mind of a multiple to freeze all these processes in their
tracks? Or what allows them to suspend the effects of alcohol and
other drugs in the blood, or turn diabetes on and off? At the moment
we don’t know and must console ourselves with one simple fact. Once
a multiple has undergone therapy and in some way becomes whole
again, he or she can still make these switches at will.44
This suggests that somewhere in our
psyches we all have the ability to control these things.
this is not all we can do.
Pregnancy, Organ Transplants, and
Tapping the Genetic Level
As we have seen, simple everyday belief can also have a powerful
effect on the body.
Of course most of us do not have the mental
discipline to completely control our beliefs (which is why doctors
must use placebos to fool us into tapping the healing forces within
To regain that control we must first
understand the different types of belief that can affect us, for
these too offer their own unique window on the plasticity of the
One type of belief is imposed on us by our society. For example,
the people of the Trobriand Islands engage freely in sexual
relations before marriage, but premarital pregnancy is strongly
frowned upon. They use no form of contraception, and seldom if
ever resort to abortion. Yet premarital pregnancy is virtually
unknown. This suggests that, because of their cultural beliefs,
the unmarried women are unconsciously preventing themselves from
There is evidence that something similar may be going on in our
own culture. Almost everyone knows of a couple who have tried
unsuccessfully for years to have a child. They finally adopt,
and shortly thereafter the woman gets pregnant. Again this
suggests that finally having a child enabled the woman and/or
her husband to overcome some sort of inhibition that was
blocking the effects of her and/or his fertility.
The fears we share with the other members of our culture can
also affect us greatly. In the nineteenth century, tuberculosis
killed tens of thousands of people, but starting in the 1880s,
death rates began to plummet. Why? Previous to that decade no
one knew what caused TB, which gave it an aura of terrifying
mystery. But in 1882 Dr. Robert Koch made the momentous
discovery that TB was caused by a bacterium. Once this knowledge
reached the general public, death rates fell from 600 per
100,000 to 200 per 100,000, despite the fact that it would be
nearly half a century before an effective drug treatment could
Fear apparently has been an important factor in the success
rates of organ transplants as well. In the 1950s kidney
transplants were only a tantalizing possibility. Then a doctor
in Chicago made what
seemed to be a successful transplant He published his findings,
and soon after other successful transplants took place around
the world. Then the first transplant failed. In fact, the doctor
discovered that the kidney had actually been rejected from the
start. But it did not matter.
Once transplant recipients
believed they could survive, they did, and success rates soared
beyond all expectations.47
THE BELIEFS WE EMBODY IN OUR ATTITUDES
Another way belief manifests in our lives is through our
attitudes. Studies have shown that the attitude an expectant
mother has toward her baby, and pregnancy in general, has a
direct correlation with the complications she will experience
during childbirth, as well as with the medical problems her
newborn infant will have after it is born.48
Indeed, in the past decade an avalanche of studies has poured in
demonstrating the effect our attitudes have on a host of medical
conditions. People who score high on tests designed to measure
hostility and aggression are seven times more likely to die from
heart problems than people who receive low scores.49
Married women have stronger immune systems than separated or
divorced women, and happily married women have even stronger
immune systems.50 People
with AIDS who display a fighting spirit live longer than
AIDS-infected individuals who have a passive attitude.51
People with cancer also live longer if they maintain a fighting
spirit,52 Pessimists get
more colds than optimists.53
Stress lowers the immune response;54
people who have just lost their spouse have an increased
incidence of illness and disease,55
and on and on.
THE BELIEFS WE EXPRESS THROUGH THE POWER OF OUR WILL
The types of belief we have examined so far can be viewed
largely as passive beliefs, beliefs we allow our culture or the
normal state of our thoughts to impose upon us.
in the form of a steely and unswerving will can also be used to
sculpt and control the body holographic. In the 1970s, Jack
Schwarz, a Dutch-born author and lecturer, astounded researchers
in laboratories across the United States with his ability to
willfully control his body’s internal biological processes.
In studies conducted at the Menninger Foundation, the University
of California’s Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, and
others, Schwarz astonished doctors by sticking mammoth six-inch sailmaker’s needles completely through his arms without
bleeding, without flinching, and without producing beta brain
waves (the type of brain waves normally produced when a person
is in pain). Even when the needles were removed, Schwara still
did not bleed, and the puncture holes closed tightly.
addition, Schwarz altered his brain-wave rhythms at will, held
burning cigarettes against his flesh without harming himself,
and even carried live coals around in his hands. He claims he
acquired these abilities when he was in a Nazi concentration
camp and had to learn how to control pain in order to withstand
the terrible beatings he endured. He believes anyone can learn
voluntary control of their body and thus gain responsibility for
his or her own health.55
Oddly enough, in 1947 another Dutchman demonstrated similar
abilities. The man’s name was Mirin Dajo, and in public
performances at the Corso Theater in Zurich, he left audiences
stunned. In plain view Dajo would have an assistant stick a
fencing foil completely through his body, clearly piercing vital
organs but causing Dajo no harm or pain. Like Schwarz, when the
foil was removed, Dajo did not bleed and only a faint red line
marked the spot where the foil had entered and exited.
Dajo’s performance proved so nerve-racking to his audiences that
eventually one spectator suffered a heart attack, and Dajo was
legally banned from performing in public. However, a Swiss
doctor named Hans Naegeli-Osjord learned of Dajo’s alleged
abilities and asked him if he would submit to scientific
scrutiny. Dajo agreed, and on May 31, 1947, he entered the
Zurich cantonal hospital.
In addition to Dr. Naegeli-Osjord, Dr.
Werner Brunner, the chief of surgery at the hospital, was also
present, as were numerous other doctors, students, and
journalists. Dajo bared his chest and concentrated, and then, in
full view of the assemblage, he had his assistant plunge the
foil through his body.
As always, no blood flowed and Dajo remained completely at ease.
But he was the only one smiling. The rest of the crowd had
turned to stone. By all rights, Dajo’s vital organs should have
been severely damaged, and his seeming good health was almost
too much for the doctors to bear. Filled with disbelief, they
asked Dajo if he would submit to an X ray. He agreed and without
apparent effort accompanied them up the stairs to the X-ray
room, the foil still through his abdomen.
The X ray was taken
and the result was undeniable. Dajo was indeed impaled. Finally,
a full twenty minutes after he had been pierced, the foil was
removed, leaving only two faint scars. Later, Dajo was tested by
scientists in Basel, and even let the doctors themselves run him
through with the foil. Dr. Naegeli-Osjord later related the
entire case to the German physicist Alfred Stelter, and Stelter
reports it in his book Psi-Heating.57
Such supernormal feats of control are not limited to the Dutch.
In the 1960s Gilbert Grosvenor, the president of the National
Geographic Society, his wife, Donna, and a team of Geographic
photographers visited a village in Ceylon to witness the alleged
miracles of a local wonderworker named Mohotty. It seems that as
a young boy Mohotty prayed to a Ceylonese divinity named
Kataragama and told the god that if he cleared Mohotty’s father
of a murder charge, he, Mohotty, would do yearly penance in
Kataragama’s honor. Mohotty’s father was cleared, and true to
his word, every year Mohotty did his penance.
This consisted of walking through fire and hot coals, piercing
his cheeks with skewers, driving skewers into his arms from
shoulder to wrist, sinking large hooks deep into his back, and
dragging an enormous sledge around a courtyard with ropes
attached to the hooks. As the Grosvenors later reported, the
hooks pulled the flesh in Mohotty’s back quite taut, and again
there was no sign of blood.
When Mohotty was finished and the
hooks were removed, there weren’t even any traces of wounds. The
Geographic team photographed this unnerving display and
published both pictures and an account of the incident in the
April 1966 issue of National Geographic.58
In 1967 Scientific American published a report about a similar
annual ritual in India. In that instance a different person was
chosen each year by the local community, and after a generous
amount of ceremony, two hooks large enough to hang a side of
beef on were buried in the victim’s back. Ropes that were pulled
through the eyes of the hooks were tied to the boom of an ox
cart, and the victim was then swung in huge areas over the fields
as a sacramental offering to the fertility gods.
When the hooks
were removed the victim was completely unharmed, there was no
blood, and literally no sign of any punctures in the flesh
OUR UNCONSCIOUS BELIEFS
As we have seen, if we are not fortunate enough to have the
self-mastery of a Dajo or a Mohotty, another way of accessing
the healing force within us is to bypass the thick armor of
doubt and skepticism that exists in our conscious minds.
tricked with a placebo is one way of accomplishing this.
Hypnosis is another. Like a surgeon reaching in and altering the
condition of an internal organ, a skilled hypnotherapist can
reach into our psyche and help us change the most important type
of belief of all, our unconscious beliefs.
Numerous studies have demonstrated irrefutably that under
hypnosis a person can influence processes usually considered
unconscious. For instance, like a multiple, deeply hypnotized
persons can control allergic reactions, blood flow patterns, and
nearsightedness. In addition, they can control heart rate, pain,
body temperature, and even will away some kinds of birthmarks.
Hypnosis can also be used to accomplish something that, in its
own way, is every bit as remarkable as suffering no injury after
a foil has been stuck through one’s abdomen.
That something involves a horribly disfiguring hereditary
condition known as
Brocq’s disease. Victims of Brocq’s disease
develop a thick, horny covering over their skin that resembles
the scales of a reptile. The skin can become so hardened and
rigid that even the slightest movement will cause it to crack
and bleed. Many of the so-called alligator-skinned people in
circus sideshows were actually individuals with Brocq’s disease,
and because of the risk of infection, victims of Brocq’s disease
used to have relatively short life-spans.
Brocq’s disease was incurable until 1951 when a sixteen-year-old
boy with an advanced case of the affliction was referred as a
last resort to a hypnotherapist named A. A. Mason at the Queen
Victoria Hospital in London. Mason discovered that the boy was a
good hypnotic subject and could easily be put into a deep state
While the boy was in trance, Mason told him that his Brocq’s disease was healing and would soon be gone. Five days
later the scaly layer covering the boy’s left arm fell off,
revealing soft, healthy flesh beneath. By the end of ten days
the arm was completely normal. Mason and the boy continued to
work on different body areas until all of the scaly skin was
gone. The boy remained symptom-free for at least five years, at
which point Mason lost touch with him.60
This is extraordinary because Brocq’s disease is a genetic
condition, and getting rid of it involves more than just
controlling autonomic processes such as blood flow patterns and
various cells of the immune system. It means tapping into the master-plan, our DNA programming itself.
So, it would appear
that when we access the right strata of our beliefs, our minds
can override even our genetic makeup.
A 1962 X ray showing
the degree to which Vittorio Michelli’s hip bone had disintegrated
as a result of his malignant sarcoma.
So little bone was
left that the ball of his upper leg was free-floating in a mass of
soft tissue, rendered as gray mist in the X ray.
After a series of
baths in the spring at Lourdes, Michelli experienced a miraculous
His hip bone
completely regenerated over the course of several months, a feat
currently considered impossible by medical science.
This 1965 X ray shows
his miraculously restored hip joint.
Salmon, The Extraordinary Cure of Vittorio Michelli. Used by
THE BELIEFS EMBODIED IN OUR FAITH
Perhaps the most powerful types of belief of all are those
we express through spiritual faith. In 1962 a man named
Michelli was admitted to the Military Hospital of Verona, Italy,
with a large cancerous tumor on his left hip (see fig. 11).
dire was his prognosis that he was sent home without treatment,
and within ten months his hip had completely disintegrated,
leaving the bone of his upper leg floating in nothing more than
a mass of soft tissue. He was, quite literally, falling apart As
a last resort he traveled to Lourdes and had himself bathed in
the spring (by this time he was in a plaster cast, and his
movements were quite restricted).
Immediately on entering the
water he had a sensation of heat moving through his body. After
the bath his appetite returned and he felt renewed energy. He
had several more baths and then returned home.
Over the course of the next month he felt such an increasing
sense of well-being he insisted his doctors X-ray him again.
They discovered his tumor was smaller. They were so intrigued
they documented every step in this improvement. It was a good
thing because after Michelli’s tumor disappeared, his bone began
to regenerate, and the medical community generally views this as
Within two months he was up and walking again,
and over the course of the next several years his bone
completely reconstructed itself (see fig. 12).
A dossier on Michelli’s case was sent to
the Vatican’s Medical Commission, an international panel of doctors
set up to investigate such matters, and after examining the evidence
the commission decided Michelli had indeed experienced a miracle.
the commission stated in its official report,
reconstruction of the iliac bone and cavity has taken place. The X
rays made in 1964,1965,1968 and 1969 confirm categorically and
without doubt that an unforeseen and even overwhelming bone
reconstruction has taken place of a type unknown in the annals of
world medicine.” * 61
Was Michelli’s healing a miracle in the sense that it violated any
of the known laws of physics? Although the jury remains out on this
question, there seems no clear-cut reason to believe any laws were
* In a truly stunning example of
synchronicity, while I was in the middle of writing these very words
a letter armed in the mail informing me that a friend who lives in
Kauai, Hawaii, and whose hip had disintegrated due to cancer has
also experienced an “inexplicable” and complete regeneration of her
bone. The tools she employed to effect her recovery were
chemotherapy, extensive meditation, and imagery exercises. The story
of her healing has been reported in the Hawaiian newspapers.
Rather, Michelli’s healing may simply be due to natural processes we
do not yet understand. Given the phenomenal range of healing
capacities we have looked at so far, it is clear there are many
pathways of interaction between the mind and body that we do not yet
If Michelli’s healing was attributable to an undiscovered natural
process, we might better ask,
Why is the regeneration of bone so
rare and what triggered it in Michelli’s case?
It may be that bone
regeneration is rare because achieving it requires the accessing of
very deep levels of the psyche, levels usually not reached through
the normal activities of consciousness. This appears to be why
hypnosis is needed to bring about a remission of Brocq’s disease.
for what triggered Michelli’s healing, given the role belief plays
in so many examples of mind/body plasticity it is certainly a
primary suspect. Could it be that through his faith in the healing
power of Lourdes, Michelli somehow, either consciously or
serendipitously, effected his own cure?
There is strong evidence that belief, not divine intervention, is
the prime mover in at least some so-called miraculous occurrences.
Recall that Mohotty attained his supernormal self-control by praying
to Kata-ragama, and unless we are willing to accept the existence of
Katara-gama, Mohotty's abilities seem better explained by his deep
and abiding belief that he was divinely protected. The same seems to
be true of many miracles produced by Christian wonder-workers and
One Christian miracle that appears to be generated by the power of
the mind is stigmata. Most church scholars agree that St. Francis of
Assisi was the first person to manifest spontaneously the wounds of
the crucifixion, but since his death there have been literally
hundreds of other stigmatists. Although no two ascetics exhibit the
stigmata in quite the same way, all have one thing in common.
St. Francis on, all have had wounds on their hands and feet that
represent where Christ was nailed to the cross. This is not what one
would expect if stigmata were God-given. As parapsychologist D.
Scott Rogo, a member of the graduate faculty at John F. Kennedy
University in Orinda, California, points out, it was Roman custom to
place the nails through the wrists, and skeletal remains from the
time of Christ bear this out Nails inserted through the hands cannot
support the weight of a body hanging on a cross.62
Why did St. Francis and all the other stigmatists who came after him
believe the nail holes passed through the hands?
Because that is the way the wounds have
been depicted by artists since the eighth century. That the position
and even size and shape of stigmata have been influenced by art is
especially apparent in the case of an Italian stigmatist named Gemma Galgani, who died in 1903. Gemma’s
wounds precisely mirrored the stigmata on her own favorite crucifix.
Another researcher who believed stigmata are self-induced was
Herbert Thurston, an English priest who wrote several volumes on
miracles. In his tour de force The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism,
published posthumously in 1952, he listed several reasons why he
thought stigmata were a product of autosuggestion.
The size, shape,
and location of the wounds varies from stigmatist to stigmatist, an
inconsistency that indicates they are not derived from a common
source, i.e., the actual wounds of Christ.
A comparison of the
visions experienced by various stigmatists also shows little
consistency, suggesting that they are not reenactments of the
historical crucifixion, but are instead products of the stigmatists’
own minds. And perhaps most significant of all, a surprisingly large
percentage of stigmatists also suffered from hysteria, a fact
Thurston interpreted as a further indication that stigmata are the
side effect of a volatile and abnormally emotional psyche, and not
necessarily the product of an enlightened one.63
In view of such evidence it is small wonder that even some of the
more liberal members of the Catholic leadership believe stigmata are
the product of “mystical contemplation,” that is, that they are
created by the mind during periods of intense meditation.
If stigmata are products of autosuggestion, the range of control the
mind has over the body holographic must be expanded even further.
Like Mohotty’s wounds, stigmata can also heal with disconcerting
speed. The almost limitless plasticity of the body is further
evidenced in the ability of some stigmatists to grow nail-like
protuberances in the middle of their wounds.
Again, St. Francis was
the first to display this phenomenon.
According to Thomas of Celano,
an eyewitness to St. Francis’s stigmata and also his biographer:
“His hands and feet seemed pierced in the midst by nails. These
marks were round on the inner side of the hands and elongated on the
outer side, and certain small pieces of flesh were seen like the
ends of nails bent and driven back, projecting from the rest of the
Another contemporary of St. Francis’s, St Bonaventura, also
witnessed the saint’s stigmata and said that the nails were so
clearly defined one could slip a finger under them and into the
Although St. Francis’s nails appeared to be composed of
blackened and hardened flesh, they possessed another nail-like
quality. According to Thomas of Celano, if a nail were pressed on
one side, it instantly projected on the other side, just as it would
if it were a real nail being slid back and forth through the middle
of the hand!
Therese Neumann, the well-known Bavarian stigmatist who died in
1962, also had such nail-like protuberances. Like St. Francis’s they
were apparently formed of hardened skin. They were thoroughly
examined by several doctors and found to be structures that passed
completely through her hands and feet. Unlike St. Francis’s wounds,
which were open continuously, Neumann’s opened only periodically,
and when they stopped bleeding, a soft, membrane-like tissue quickly
grew over them.
Other stigmatists have displayed similarly profound alterations in
their bodies. Padre Pio, the famous Italian stigmatist who died in
1968, had stigmata wounds that passed completely through his hands.
A wound in his side was so deep that doctors who examined it were
afraid to measure it for fear of damaging his internal organs.
Venerable Giovanna Maria Solimani, an eighteenth-century Italian
stigmatist, had wounds in her hands deep enough to stick a key into.
As with all stigmatists’ wounds, hers never became decayed,
infected, or even inflamed.
And another eighteenth-century stigmatist, St. Veronica Giuliani, an abbess at a convent in Citta
di Castello in Umbria, Italy, had a large wound in her side that
would open and close on command.
Images Projected Outside the Brain
The holographic model has aroused the
interest of researchers in the Soviet Union, and two Soviet
psychologists, Dr. Alexander P. Dubrov and Dr. Veniamin N. Pushkin,
have written extensively on the idea.
They believe that the
frequency processing capabilities of the brain do not in and of
themselves prove the holographic nature of the images and thoughts
in the human mind. They have, however, suggested what might
constitute such proof.
Dubrov and Pushkin believe that if an example
could be found where the brain projected an image outside of itself,
the holographic nature of the mind would be convincingly
Or to use their own words,
“Records of ejection of
psychophysical structures outside the brain would provide direct
evidence of brain holograms.”65
In fact, St. Veronica Giuliani seems to supply such evidence.
the last years of her life she became convinced that the images of
the Passion - a crown of thorns, three nails, a cross, and a sword - had
become emblazoned on her heart. She drew pictures of these and even
noted where they were located. After she died an autopsy revealed
that the symbols were indeed impressed on her heart exactly as she
had depicted them. The two doctors who performed the autopsy signed
sworn statements attesting to their finding.66
Other stigmatists have had similar experiences. St. Teresa of Avila
had a vision of an angel piercing her heart with a sword, and after
she died a deep fissure was found in her heart. Her heart, with the
miraculous sword wound still clearly visible, is now on display as a
relic in Alba de Tormes, Spain.67
A nineteenth-century French stigmatist named Marie-Julie Jahenny
kept seeing the image of a flower in her mind, and eventually a
picture of the flower appeared on her breast. It remained there
Nor are such
abilities limited to stigmatists. In 1913 a twelve-year-old girl
from the village of Bussus-Bus-Suel, near Abbeville, France, made
headlines when it was discovered that she could consciously command
images, such as pictures of dogs and horses, to appear on her arms,
legs, and shoulders. She could also produce words, and when someone
asked her a question the answer would instantly appear on her skin.69
Surely such demonstrations are examples of the ejection of
psychophysical structures outside the brain. In fact, in a way
stigmata themselves, especially those in which the flesh has formed
into nail-like protrusions, are examples of the brain projecting
images outside itself and impressing them in the soft clay of the
Dr. Michael Grosso, a philosopher at Jersey City
State College who has written extensively on the subject of
miracles, has also arrived at this conclusion.
Grosso, who traveled
to Italy to study Padre Pio’s stigmata firsthand, states,
the categories in my attempt to analyze Padre Pio is to say that he
had an ability to symbolically transform physical reality. In other
words, the level of consciousness he was operating at enabled him to
transform physical reality in the light of certain symbolic ideas.
For example, he identified with the wounds of the crucifixion and
his body became permeable to those psychic symbols, gradually
assuming their form.”70
So it appears that through the use of images, the brain can tell the
body what to do, including telling it to make more images. Images
making images. Two mirrors reflecting each other infinitely.
the nature of the mind/body relationship in a holographic universe.
Laws Both Known and Unknown
At the beginning of this chapter, I said that instead of examining
the various mechanisms the mind uses to control the body, the
chapter would be devoted primarily to exploring the range of this
control. In doing so I did not mean to deny or diminish the
importance of such mechanisms.
They are crucial to our understanding
of the mind/body relationship, and new discoveries in this area
seem to appear every day.
For example, at a recent conference on psychoneuroimmunology - a new
science that studies the way the mind (psycho), the nervous system (neuro),
and the immune system (immunology) interact - Candace Pert, chief of
brain biochemistry at the National Institute of Mental Health,
announced that immune cells have neuropeptide receptors.
Neuropeptides are molecules the brain uses to communicate, the
brain’s telegrams, if you will. There was a time when it was
believed that neuropeptides could only be found in the brain.
the existence of receptors (telegram receivers) on the cells in our
immune system implies that the immune system is not separate from
but is an extension of the brain. Neuropeptides have also been found
in various other parts of the body, leading Pert to admit that she
can no longer tell where the brain leaves off and the body begins.71
I have excluded such particulars, not only because 1 felt examining
the extent to which the mind can shape and control the body was more
relevant to the discussion at hand, but also because the biological
processes responsible for mind/body interactions are too vast a
subject for this book. At the beginning of the section on miracles I
said there was no clear-cut reason to believe Michelli’s bone
regeneration could not be explained by our current understanding of
This is less true of stigmata. It also appears to be very
much not true of various paranormal phenomena reported by credible
individuals throughout history, and in recent times by various
biologists, physicists, and other researchers.
In this chapter we have looked at astounding things the mind can do
that, although not fully understood, do not seem to violate any of
the known laws of physics. In the next chapter we will look at some
of the things the mind can do that cannot be explained by our
current scientific understandings. As we will see, the holographic
idea may shed light in these areas as well. Venturing into these
territories will occasionally involve treading on what might at
first seem to be shaky ground and examining phenomena even more
dizzying and incredible than Mohotty’s rapidly healing wounds and
the images on St. Veronica Giuliani’s heart.
But again we will find
that, despite their daunting nature, science is also beginning to
make inroads into these territories.
Acupuncture Microsystems and the Little
Man in the Ear
Before closing, one last piece of evidence of the body’s holographic
nature deserves to be mentioned. The ancient Chinese art of
acupuncture is based on the idea that every organ and bone in the
body is connected to specific points on the body’s surface.
activating these acupuncture points, with either needles or some
other form of stimulation, it is believed that diseases and
imbalances affecting the parts of the body connected to the points
can be alleviated and even cured. There are over a thousand
acupuncture points organized in imaginary lines called meridians on
the body’s surface.
Although still controversial, acupuncture is
gaining acceptance in the medical community and has even been used
successfully to treat chronic back pain in racehorses.
In 1957 a French physician and acupuncturist named Paul Nogier
published a book called Treatise of Auriculotkerapy, in which he
announced his discovery that in addition to the major acupuncture
system, there are two smaller acupuncture systems on both ears. He
dubbed these acupuncture microsystems and noted that when one played
a kind of connect-the-dots game with them, they formed an anatomical
map of a miniature human inverted like a fetus (see fig. 13).
Unbeknownst to Nogier, the Chinese had discovered the “little man in
the ear” nearly 4,000 years earlier, but a map of the Chinese ear
system wasn’t published until after Nogier had already laid claim to
The little man in the ear is not just a charming aside in the
history of acupuncture. Dr. Terry Oleson, a psycho biologist at the
Pain Management Clinic at the University of California at Los
Angeles School of Medicine, has discovered that the ear microsystem
can be used to diagnose accurately what’s going on in the body.
instance, Oleson has discovered that increased electrical activity
in one of the acupuncture points in the ear generally indicates a
pathological condition (either past or present) in the corresponding
area of the body. In one study, forty patients were examined to
determine areas of their body where they experienced chronic pain.
Following the examination, each patient was draped in a sheet to
conceal any visible problems.
The Little Man in the
found that the acupuncture points in the ear form the outline of a
miniature human being.
Dr. Terry Oleson, a
psychobiologist at UCLA’s School of Medicine,
believes it is
because the body is a hologram and each of its portions contains an
image of the whole.
[Copyright Dr. Terry
Oleson, UCLA School of Medicine. Used by permission]
Then an acupuncturist with no knowledge
of the results examined only their ears.
When the results were
tallied it was discovered that the ear examinations were in
agreement with the established medical diagnoses 75.2 percent of the
Ear examinations can also reveal problems with the bones and
internal organs. Once when Oleson was out boating with an
acquaintance he noticed an abnormally flaky patch of skin in one of
the man’s ears. From his research Oleson knew the spot corresponded
to the heart, and he suggested to the man that he might want to get
his heart checked. The man went to his doctor the next day and
discovered he had a cardiac problem which required immediate
Oleson also uses electrical stimulation of the acupuncture points in
the ear to treat chronic pain, weight problems, hearing loss, and
virtually all kinds of addiction. In one study of 14
narcotic-addicted individuals, Oleson and his colleagues used ear
acupuncture to eliminate the drug requirements of 12 of them in an
average of 5 days and with only minimal withdrawal symptoms74
Indeed, ear acupuncture has proved so successful in bringing about
rapid narcotic detoxification that clinics in both Los Angeles and
New York are now using the technique to treat street addicts.
Why would the acupuncture points in the ear be aligned in the shape
of a miniature human?
Oleson believes it is because of the
holographic nature of the mind and body. Just as every portion of a
hologram contains the image of the whole, every portion of the body
may also contain the image of the whole.
“The ear holograph is,
logically, connected to the brain holograph which itself is
connected to the whole body,” he states. “The way we use the ear to
affect the rest of the body is by working through the brain
Oleson believes there are probably acupuncture microsystems in other
parts of the body as well.
Dr. Ralph Alan Dale, the director of the
Acupuncture Education Center in North Miami Beach, Florida, agrees.
After spending the last two decades tracking down clinical and
research data from China, Japan, and Germany, he has accumulated
evidence of eighteen different microacupuncture holograms in the
body, including ones in the hands, feet, arms, neck, tongue, and
even the gums.
Like Oleson, Dale feels these microsystems are
“holographic reiterations of the gross anatomy,” and believes there
are still other such systems waiting to be discovered. In a notion
reminiscent of Bohm’s assertion that every electron in some way
contains the cosmos, Dale hypothesizes that every finger, and even
every cell, may contain its own acupuncture microsystem.76
Richard Leviton, a contributing editor at East West magazine, who
has written about the holographic implications of acupuncture microsystems, thinks that alternative medical techniques
- such as
reflexology, a type of massage therapy that involves accessing all
points of the body through stimulation of the feet, and iridology, a
diagnostic technique that involves examining the iris of the eye in
order to determine the condition of the body - may also be indications
of the body’s holographic nature.
Leviton concedes that neither
field has been experimentally vindicated (studies of iridology, in
particular, have produced extremely conflicting results) but feels
the holographic idea offers a way of understanding them if their
legitimacy is established.
Leviton thinks there may even be something to palmistry. By this he
does not mean the type of hand reading practiced by fortune-tellers
who sit in glass storefronts and beckon people in, but the
4,500-year-old Indian version of the science.
He bases this
suggestion on his own profound encounter with an Indian hand reader
living in Montreal who possessed a doctorate in the subject from
Agra University, India.
“The holographic paradigm provides
palmistry’s more esoteric and controversial claims a context for
validation,” says Leviton.77
It is difficult to assess the type of palmistry practiced by
Leviton’s Indian hand reader in the absence of double-blind studies,
but science is beginning to accept that at least some information
about our body is contained in the lines and whorls of our hand.
Herman Weinreb, a neurologist at New York University, has discovered
that a fingerprint pattern called ulnar loop occurs more
frequently in Alzheimer’s patients than in non-sufferers (see fig.
found that Alzheimer’s patients have a more than average chance
of having a
distinctive fingerprint pattern known as an ulnar loop.
At least ten other
common genetic disabilities are also associated with various
patterns in the hand.
Such findings may
provide evidence of the holographic model’s assertion
that every portion of
the body contains information about the whole.
[Redrawn by the
author from original art in Medicine magazine]
In a study of 50 Alzheimer’s patients
and 50 normal individuals, 72 percent of the Alzheimer’s group had
the pattern on at least 8 of their fingertips, compared to only 26
percent in the control group. Of those with ulnar loops on all 10
fingertips, 14 were Alzheimer’s sufferers, but only 4 members of the
control group had the pattern.78
It is now known that 10 common genetic disabilities, including
Down’s syndrome, are also associated with various patterns in the
Doctors in West Germany are now using this information to
analyze parents’ hand prints and help determine whether expectant
mothers should undergo amniocentesis, a potentially dangerous
genetic screening procedure in which a needle is inserted into the
womb to draw off amniotic fluid for laboratory testing.
Researchers at West Germany’s Institute of Dermatoglyphks in Hamburg
have even developed a computer system that uses an opto-electric
scanner to take a digitized “photo” of a patient’s hand. It then
compares the hand to the 10,000 other prints in its memory, scans it
for the nearly 50 distinctive patterns now known to be associated
with various hereditary disabilities, and quickly calculates the
patient’s risk factors.78
So perhaps we should not be so quick to
dismiss palmistry out of hand.
The lines and whorls in our palms may
contain more about our whole self than we realize.
Harnessing the Powers of the
Throughout this chapter two
broad messages come through loud and clear.
According to the
holographic model, the mind/body ultimately cannot distinguish the
difference between the neural holograms the brain uses to experience
reality and the ones it conjures up while imagining reality.
have a dramatic effect on the human organism, an effect so powerful!
that it can modulate the immune system, duplicate and/or negate the
effects of potent drugs, heal wounds with amazing rapidity, melt
tumors, override our genetic programming, and reshape our living
flesh in ways that almost defy belief.
This then is the first message:
each of us possesses the ability, at least at some level, to
influence our health and control our physical form in ways that are
nothing short of dazzling. We are all potential wonderworkers,
dormant yogis, and it is clear from the evidence presented in the
preceding pages that it would behoove us both as individuals and as
a species to devote a good deal more effort into exploring and
harnessing these talents.
The second message is that elements that go into the making of these
neural holograms are many and subtle. They include the images upon
which we meditate, our hopes and fears, the attitudes of our
doctors, our unconscious prejudices, our individual and cultural
beliefs, and our faith in things both spiritual and technological.
More than just facts, these are important clues, signposts that
point toward those things that we must become aware of and acquire
mastery over if we are to learn how to unleash and manipulate these
There are, no doubt, other factors
involved, other influences that shape and circumscribe these
abilities, for one thing should now be obvious.
In a holographic
universe, a universe in which a slight change in attitude can mean
the difference between life and death, in which things are so subtly
interconnected that a dream can call forth the inexplicable
appearance of a scarab beetle, and the factors responsible for an
illness can also evoke a certain pattern in the lines and whorls of
the hand, we have reason to suspect that each effect has
Each linkage is the starting point of a
dozen more, for in the words of Walt Whitman,
“A vast similitude interlocks all.”
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