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Energy Medicine: The Science and Mystery of Healing Paperback
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I started spot checking the scientific studies she cites to prove there is a detectable energy field or life force comparable to Qi. All of the studies have issues, mostly by having poor experimental standards, and being unreproducible.
-Kirlian photography showing an 'energy field' around living things. People have figured out the physical/chemical reaction causing the auras, dispelling the notion that it is some sort of life force.
-The EEG twin study where separated twins could have their brain waves altered simultaneously when only one was exposed to a stimuli, proving there is an invisible unifying energy between twins that transcends space and time. Only 2/13 groups had this effect and even the scientists writing the study concluded the results should not be taken as conclusive evidence of anything.
-The PEAR institute study showing people with positive attitude or intentions could have a very small effect on the outcome of what is essentially a coin flipping computer. Look up PEAR institute on Wikipedia and find that all of their studies have been heavily criticized for bad practices, lack of documentation, and results that could not be reproduced by other labs.
She links the above questionable studies with her anecdotal evidence, eg tying the Kirlian photography energy fields to reducing an amputee's pain by placing acupuncture needles on a bed where there leg would have been. This is all within the first few chapters.
Again, I don't doubt any of her experiences. I think it's great that she can enter a healing state of being, deeply connect with the people she is helping, and often time help them in unbelievable. I just think her attempt to scientifically explain the mechanisms of what's happening are flawed.
I will continue reading the book. If it keeps going on trying to tie flawed scientific studies to prove magical healing exists, I'll probably stop reading. If it seeks other explanations that make more sense, I'll keep reading. For me, it would not diminish her work or 'energy healing' if her work was verified and just found to be placebo. I believe two people emotionally connecting within a ritual or series of movements could have the effects she describes, without the need to bring universal energy fields etc in to explain it.
Edit: I finished the book and my review still stands.
The beginning of the book is spent talking about real science, giving germ theory as an example of an unseen force affecting people, and receiving backlash at the time of its initial suggestion. She then gives a brief physics lesson which at first is common knowledge, but then gives way to discussions of quantum theory that only someone with some expertise would be able to verify. This segues into being roughly equated as an explanation of the workings of "energy fields" she will spend the rest of the book discussing.
This seems like a typical tactic for this sort of book - start with hard, proven science that everyone is aware of. Then start making generalities about the more complex theories that only a physicist would really understand (eg how dark matter or quantum entanglement work), to make some sort of conclusion that 'feels' right but does not hold up to real scrutiny. Then put forth the flawed/debunked studies mentioned above, as if they are a logical continuation of scientific research.
The rest of the book is largely spent on anecdotal stories about visiting other energy healers and their institutions (many of which institutions are the only ones doing research on their own methods and proving themselves 'real'.) These anecdotes all boil down to this formula:
-I felt a great energy when entering the practitioner's building.
-The practitioner was humble and even skeptical of their own abilities, but cannot deny their results under rigorous (self-run, never third party verified) testing.
-The practitioner gestured towards me and I felt a great energy and physiological response. I think I was having an issue which they cured in the moment.
One of the final chapters discusses the placebo effect and how it may be responsible for much of what has been discussed in the book, and that it should be further researched. It shows that in countless studies, the placebo effect is a powerful phenomenon that makes people feel better, even though nothing chemical or physical has really been performed on them. I agree with this, and it is a reasonable way to close the book. However, this is where all the studies are. Numerous parties in countless studies agreeing on something. Why not dive as deeply into this after spending so much time on anecdotal stories about feeling light flowing through one's body? It reads more like a final disclaimer, an obligation to tether the entire book back to something that can actually be tested and proven.
Check out Wim Hof. Through meditation and breathing techniques, he has great control of his nervous system/immune system. He does not claim it's magic, but he can do extraordinary things. He has ran a double marathon in death valley. He has hiked a snow covered mountain in his underwear. He leads clinics on how to do it. He has universities study what he is doing so he can prove it. No one is stopping him.
If the author possesses the abilities she says she does (which I am willing to believe she does,) knows other people with similar abilities, AND she wants to dedicate a book to discovering the true nature of how these work, why not work with universities or research institutes? They could create airtight studies to truly prove the efficacy of these 'energy healing' methods. What is the counterargument to doing this if Wim Hof is already participating in mind-body studies where he does things to himself that are similar to what is described in Energy Medicine?
Oh and the various stories of healers, my gosh, just amazing.
I listened to it on audible and then just purchased a hard copy too, it is a must have.
I've gone through the audiobook twice in a matter of months. In general, spiritual books of the like can't hold my attention because it requires a level of faith, whereas Blakeway's coupling of science with spirituality/metaphysical had me captivated. The writing is clean and flows well, covering a range of subject matters I expected and some I did not, to my delight. After this book, I had purchased a few other energy medicine books from different authors who were not nearly as articulate and concise as Blakeway.
I appreciate Blakeway's slight skepticism as she embarked on her journey to learn about different experiences of energy medicine and how she expands her understanding through her journey. The chapter on William Bengston prompted me to purchase his book, which is a wonderful complement to Blakeway's book. I enjoyed the interwoven thread of her own experience as she struggled through personal and professional issues, in her pursuit to better help her clients. Because I live small, I don't have room to store books except for the ones I will come back to again. This one I'm keeping.
Jill writes in an approachable style that sweeps the reader along. I couldn't put the book down, it was just that good!
I highly recommend Energy Medicine, it's a book you will read again and again.