Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Why Understanding Energy Feels Impossible (But Isn’t)

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

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Lord Kelvin, the 19th century physicist who formulated the first two laws of thermodynamics, thought that science would never understand how human intent causes muscles to move: “The influence of animal or vegetable life on matter is infinitely beyond the range of any scientific inquiry hitherto entered on.”

It wasn’t merely “not yet understood.” It was “infinitely beyond.”

(“Hitherto” gives some wiggle room, but by his time scientists were already exploring nerves, the brain, and electricity.)

Friends who work with energy (or ritual magick) sometimes say that we’ll never understand why human intent causes energy to move, that energy is immune to scientific inquiry.

Like Lord Kelvin, they’ve thought about the phenomenon, considered at a few ways to explore it, and realized those paths won’t work. Usually, they’ve thought about placebo-controlled energy healing studies (to see which conditions benefit from which systems of healing), or testing which rituals produce better results. They’ve noticed how little that research would tell us about what energy is at a fundamental level. And they’re correct: Existing paths are unlikely to lead to a deep understanding of energy.

The mistake, of course, is to stop after examining those existing paths, rather than searching for new paths forward (like the sensory connections I use to watch energy structures as you work). And yet, I understand the impulse: Considering existing paths takes effort. In school, writing a paper on why the existing paths won’t work earns a good grade. That’s all you’re asked to do. And discovering a new solution isn’t just a little harder, it’s orders of magnitude harder.

Part of this, I think, is in how we teach science: As a series of successes, without any of the struggle or false turns. We forget that, from the dawn of human history up until the point we understood it, every phenomenon was a mystery, and the path to understanding was equally mysterious. We teach with the clarity of hindsight, and students learn to expect that clarity when facing new problems. Then, when we encounter our first truly new phenomenon, we have no tools or no frame of reference for exploring it, and we quickly conclude it’s impossible.

Next time exploring feels impossible, remember: Most of what we know today seemed impossible right up until it was understood.

Keep exploring.

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Beyond the Material? Why Energy is like Gravity and Magnetism

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

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Jill posted on Facebook: “How do you describe the beyond-material: Spiritual? Etheric? Metaphysical?”

I pondered for a day. I know what she’s asking, and the easy answer is, “energy and ethereal.” But there’s something deeper here.

Years ago, a physicist friend asked about my work. At the time, I was describing energy and connections as “non-physical stuff.”

“What does non-physical stuff mean? Your whole premise is that this is real and out there, right?” she asked.

Yes, I said, but you can’t reach out and touch it, it doesn’t interact with ordinary atom-based matter except in a few limited ways.

She explained, “Dark matter is the same, it only interacts in limited ways, through gravity but nothing else, but it’s still physical.”

She explained that, to a physicist, “physical” means “real,” out there in reality rather than an idea in the mind. Saying something was real but non-physical simply didn’t make sense. What I was describing was non-ordinary physical matter.

That conversation holds the deeper answer to Jill’s question:

Energy isn’t beyond material any more than gravity or magnetism are. None of those phenomena are solid, atom-based matter, but all three produce observable, measurable results.

“But gravity and magnetism are part of modern physics, and biofield energy isn’t (yet),” you might point out. And I think that’s part of the implicit distinction my friend’s question was making.

But here’s the thing: That’s a statement about human knowledge, not about the phenomenon itself. When Newton discovered gravity in 1665, that changed human knowledge, but it didn’t change gravity itself. When we say that a phenomenon is mysterious, we really mean that it’s mysterious to us, that it’s not understood by us yet. It’s a statement about us, not about the phenomenon.

So, what’s beyond-material? Imagination, social constructs like ownership and capitalism, and other things that exist only in human mind. But not energy. That’s part of material reality, just like magnetism and gravity, and it’s only a matter of time before we understand it.

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Energy Healing Culture: How We’re Holding Ourselves Back

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

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How does it feel to be wrong? Scary, dumb, shameful?

Actually, being wrong feels the same as being right. What feels bad is realizing we’re wrong.

Our brains encourage seeking behavior with dopamine. If we’re searching for food, and we see an apple tree in the distance, we get a little dopamine. We get closer and see ripe apples, we get a little more dopamine. When we reach the tree, you guessed it, even more dopamine.

But seeking out places where we’re wrong? No dopamine, serotonin, or happy neurotransmitters of any kind. There’s no innate drive to seek out places we’re wrong, because our brains didn’t evolve to seek truth, they evolved to keep us alive, create offspring, and seek social status.

Seeking our errors is something that must be taught through culture. And most cultures don’t.

This came up last week, talking with a friend about testing energy techniques. I told her about a class I took years ago, taught by a nurse for medical professionals to learn energy healing for patients in hospitals. Exactly the sort of teacher you’d expect to test their exercises.

Here’s the first exercise she gave: With the index finger of your right hand, almost touch the palm of your left hand. Notice the tingling. That’s energy.

I did feel tingling. I had a friend almost touch my palm, and felt tingling again. Then I asked that friend to either almost touch me or not, while I closed my eyes. I felt nothing, until I opened my eyes and saw they were already almost touching me, when I felt tingling. Which tells me: This sensation is caused by knowing I’m about to be touched, not by feeling the energy radiating off someone’s body. (The term, by the way, is proprioception.)

And the shame is, this teacher had techniques that really do help people. She was doing a lot of good, and could do even more good if her more mainstream peers would take energy healing seriously. But when the very first claim is so easy to test, and so clearly incorrect, it makes all of her work so easy to dismiss.

Telling this story to my friend, she said, “Yeah, some teachers are so lazy.” And that’s a nice fantasy: People get things wrong because they’re lazy, and as long as I’m not lazy, I won’t have to worry about overlooking my own false beliefs.

Only, it doesn’t work like that. This teacher worked as a nurse in a hospital. She is not lazy. And her error is far more pervasive, and far harder to avoid.

Our brains are wired to confirm our beliefs, not test them. Our broader culture doesn’t teach us to test beliefs, either. And the only tests I’ve ever seen in energy classes were rigged so students would succeed whether they were using real energy or not.

I want to learn how energy truly works. I want to develop techniques and demos that win over mainstream society. And to do that, we need a culture that encourages real testing.

I hope you’ll join me in creating that. There’s a lot to do, but a good first step is to blindfold a friend and play with energy. Then talk about it, write about it, and invite energy workers and teachers to explore real energy with you.

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Building Confidence in Energy: How I Tested a Technique in 30 Minutes

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

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Anecdotal evidence has never been enough for me. I doubt: Was the result just coincidence? Placebo? I’ve always wanted the certainty that comes from scientific testing, but that sounded so hard. Daunting. Maybe impossible.

Then I tested sending energy with a friend. It took 30 minutes. It was fun, and we both came away with more confidence. Here’s how I did it:

  • The test is to send and feel energy. One person sends, the other receives.
  • The receiver wears a blindfold and earphones with white noise, so they can’t see the sender or hear their footsteps or their breathing.
  • The sender chooses a region of the body (chest, stomach, shoulder, head, etc), hovers their hands about 6″ away from that part of the receiver’s body, and sends energy. There is no physical contact. The receiver says when and where they feel energy.

The results were great. Both of us consistently identified when energy was being sent, and where it was being sent, correctly. We came out of it much more confident in our practices.

I did a placebo control, hovering my hand without building energy. The receiver (correctly) didn’t feel anything when I didn’t build energy.

And my partner did a fun test. I was the receiver, standing up so my partner could get to my front and side. I felt energy in my chest, said so, and heard her voice to my left saying, “Correct.”

I replied, “But I felt it in my chest, and you’re standing to my left, so I guess that’s a miss.”

She explained, “No. My hand is by your chest. But I’m standing to your left, just in case you’re hearing my footsteps. You got it right.” It was clever and memorable, and increased our confidence in our energy techniques.

Experiences like this are what make me so passionate about testing energy techniques and about the Energy Geek Meetup.

About the Meetup

Note: I wrote this post and the next few posts in preparation for the Energy Geek Meetup. They’re all about testing energy techniques. The testing in this post is from 2014, I think, it was one of the first close-to-rigorous tests I did.

The Energy Geek Meetup is for practitioners who want to take their energy skills and confidence to the next level. It’s the 4th Wednesday of every month, 7-9pm, at the Embodiment Arts Collective, 3490 20th Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco (near 24th st BART). Suggested donation $5-10.

Please RSVP on Facebook or Meetup. (Popular events draw more people. RSVPing helps us grow. Thank you!)

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Energy Geek Meetup

Monday, October 24th, 2016

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Everyone has doubts. Did that healing session work? Does energy work the way we think it does? Is energy even real?

For years, I tried to ignore my doubts, to push them down until they (almost) disappeared. But they kept creeping up, half-conscious, when I’d think about starting a healing practice or teaching a class. They made me uncomfortable and un-confident, and hobbled me as I pursued those dreams.

Far better to face our doubts, say, “I believe this energy technique works, but I’m not sure.” And then move from uncertain belief to confident knowledge by testing the technique, seeing it work, and knowing that it will work next time too.

But that’s hard to do alone. To ensure the results aren’t just placebo or self-suggestion, we need help from other people. And we need a supportive, safe community, so it’s OK if a technique doesn’t work the first time, or even the tenth time.

That’s why I’m creating this event. Every month, we’ll pick an energy technique and design a scientific test. Everyone who wants to test it will, and anyone who doesn’t want to test can watch.

Some months, the technique will work for everyone, and we can all go home knowing that energy is real and we can use it.

Other months, the technique will work for some people but not others. This is a great opportunity to improve — we’ll have found something to learn, and we’ll have people at the event who can teach us their approach and help us understand how to practice. Then next month, we can come back and verify that it’s working. Writing this, I realize I’ve wanted this supportive practice group for years, and I’m excited about creating it.

And occasionally, the technique won’t work for anyone. That’s OK. We’ll have learned something about how energy works, what it does and doesn’t do, and we’ll all be stronger practitioners for it. And next month, we’ll meet again, test a different technique, and keep improving.

I’m starting the Energy Geek Meetup in February 2017, in San Francisco. If you’re local, I hope you’ll join. And I’ll be posting notes and results for anyone who isn’t local.

Class & Webinar for Energy Healers and Magick Workers

I’m also planning a class for later in the year, covering the first few techniques of Direct Magick and how to apply them to other practices, from energy healing to ritual magick.

Topics will include:

  • Channeling energetic forces (“ethereal software”), contacting spirits, and how to communicate more accurately and precisely
  • How to feel energy and ethereal structures (“sensory connections”), how to do it precisely, and how to zoom in on particular aspects of the biofield or other structures
  • Finding and awakening the parts of your mind that drive energy (your “ethereal muscles”)

I’ll be doing an in-person class in San Francisco, and a webinar for everyone else.

I’ll also be creating a book, writing topics as the class progresses. It’ll be a tighter scope than the book-in-progress, for healers rather than engineers. (I’ll have another class and book for engineers eventually.)

Interested? Sign up for occasional emails (one a month at most) about my events by leaving a comment below saying “sign me up.” And if you want my posts by email, sign up for that via RSS.

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Germ Theory of Disease: From Laughingstock to Life-Saving in 100 Years

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

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In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis suggested doctors wash their hands before surgery. He thought it might prevent deaths. He was mocked and driven out of medicine.

Ten years later, Louis Pasteur proposed, tentatively and controversially, that microorganisms might be responsible for contagious disease. The idea was debated for over 20 years, and didn’t become accepted science until 1881.

And even small wounds were potentially fatal until 1928, when Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin.

Less than 100 years. That’s how quickly we moved from Semmelweis to Fleming, from mocking hand-washing to curing disease.

Remember that next time someone mocks energy healing.

In 100 years, once we understand how energy interacts with atoms and cells, what life-saving technology will we create?

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Placebo-Controlled Sigil Testing: Results

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

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One month ago, I posted a double-blind placebo-controlled test of ethereal software and sigils.

Over 30 of you participated. Thank you! It feels amazing to have this community to help test these techniques.

(The rest of this post assumes you read the procedure. Summary: Two symbols. One had ethereal software attached, the other was placebo. It involved a coin flip, so I call them “heads” and “tails.”)

sigil experiment resultsToday I have the results. Short answer: The sigil didn’t work. Six of you felt the connection on heads, seven felt it on tails. On average, you felt a connection strength of 2.6/10 on heads, and 3.7/10 on tails. So a very mild preference for tails, both on strength and on popular vote. See the chart to the right, or download the file.

(Update: SVH points out, I failed to tally her clear Tails signal, so it should be 6H, 8T.)

Tails was the active sigil (heads was the placebo), but the results are too close to call it a success.

And yet, I feel good. That’s my first take-away: The point isn’t to get positive results from every test. The point is to become the kind of person who isn’t afraid to test their beliefs. Or who is afraid, but tests anyway. The lightness and liberation I felt immediately after posting the test are still with me.

The second take-away: Placebos are tremendously important. Of the 32 testers, 20 felt at least a 3/10 on one of the sigils. That’s over 60% of respondents. If I’d only posted one sigil and asked if you felt something, it would look like a success. I already knew that placebo controls are important, but seeing it first-hand makes a deeper impact.

I also learned about test design. Less than half of respondents tried both sigils. This is probably because I said to wait until the next day to do the second sigil. If I’d more clearly said to do both sigils, and only asked for a 10-minute break between them, I think we would have gotten a lot more data.

Why didn’t the sigil work? There are several components of this technique:

  • Connecting the ethereal software to you via the sigil. (This includes binding the sigil, and instructions for how to use the sigil.)
  • Asking the ethereal software for an obvious connection.
  • Creating sensations with the obvious connection.
  • Also, testers need to avoid building their own energy. If you build energy yourself, then you might feel that, regardless of what the ethereal software does or doesn’t do.

I can’t say which step(s) didn’t work, but I have plans for improving most of them:

  • I didn’t have any instructions to not build your own energy. I’m going to add that next time, along with an exercise on quieting your energy. This might reduce the sensations from the placebo.
  • I’ve returned to my work on creating sensations, with promising results. It’s such a useful demonstration, plus learning to create sensations can tell us a lot about healing techniques for pain. Once I get a solid technique working in-person, I’m going to program it into the ethereal software and repeat this testing.
  • I’m also thinking about in-person testing for sending instructions to the ethereal software. Maybe I can create a command like, “Create an obvious connection to Mike,” then have a friend use the command. That would let me verify that people new to using this ethereal software can successfully send it instructions.

In all, I feel good, despite the technique not working. Facing these fears and passing through them has been amazing. And it’s nurtured me to share this process, both the testing and today’s post about results and next steps. As a solo practitioner, I’ve never had much community, but this blog is starting to feel like a home. Thank you for being part of that.

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Overcoming Overwhelmed-ness

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

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Whether you do energy healing research, or magick, or entrepreneurship, we all create new paths. This week, my path with Healing Lab got jostled, and I want to share how I got through being daunted and found a vision I’m even more excited about.

This week, Dr. Melinda Connor spoke with me about Healing Lab. She researches energy healing at Akamai University in Arizona, has published books and papers on the subject, is more or less doing what I want to be doing. A few notes from our conversation:

  • Publishing a double-blind study requires a bunch of hoops. It’s not something I can do alone.
  • There are already studies comparable to what I had planned to do. It’s not wrong to do more similar studies, but it’s probably not the highest-impact place to focus.
  • Despite all that, she was genuinely encouraging. She wasn’t trying to rain on my parade — it’s more like, there was already a bunch of rain on the way, and she was the one to point it out.

I spent 24 hours feeling daunted. Too big, too difficult, why bother… Three ideas helped me work through it:

  • Everything is harder than we expect. Sometimes it’s 100x harder, and maybe we give up. But this one is 10x harder. I can work with that.
  • The fact that people are already doing similar work is good, it means it’s possible. It means that, if I want to, I can follow their path.
  • Other people are doing some of the projects I’d planned (like double-blind trials), and they’re better at those skills than I am. That’s OK. It lets me focus on what I’m best at. All I have to do is figure out what that is.

When I daydream about Healing Lab, it’s not running trials or speaking at conferences. I daydream about developing new techniques for energy healing, sensing the biofield, or communicating with spirits (and maybe humans). Engineering, along with developing the scientific models to support it. That’s what I’m uniquely good at.

It’s also what we need. Because we’ve been researching and publishing about energy healing for decades, and it’s still drowning in stigma. But if we had techniques that produced even more obvious results, things that were even harder to dismiss or deny, that might move the needle on acceptance.

I’m going to use the word “engineering” for creating new techniques, and “publishing” for doing double-blind trials to demonstrate that those techniques work.

The rest of the path became obvious: Engineer the techniques, publish enough to convince other energy researchers that the techniques work and are worth studying, then collaborate on the really definitive publications. So instead of being 50% engineering and 50% publication, now I’m envisioning maybe 75% engineering, 25% publication — a shift in focus that feels relaxing and liberating, more aligned with my skills and interests.

(And the next step is still the same: Publish some case studies to prove I’m serious.)

Jostles aren’t bad. Being daunted isn’t bad. These are things that happen. And if you’re lucky, you’ll emerge with an even better plan.


This is the last week of the double-blind sigil experiment. It’s a great way to build confidence in your skills. Please try it. (If you already tried one sigil, please try the other.)

I’m teaching Beyond Tantra: Intermediate Erotic Energy Techniques this Thursday, 7pm at Wicked Grounds in San Francisco.

And Dr. Connor wants to connect with other energy healing researchers. She gave me great info and sincere encouragement, and I’m very glad I reached out to her. I’m not posting her email because I don’t want spambots to bother her, but if you’re doing research in energy healing and want some input, drop me a line and I’ll connect you. (And I’d be happy to talk with you too.)

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Confidence, Resistance, and Testing Ourselves

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

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This week I posted a double-blind placebo-controlled sigil testing.

In the days before posting it, I encountered more resistance than I have in years. The whole point of science is that it can tell you if you’re wrong, and choosing to honestly test a precious belief is a bit like choosing to walk face first into a wall — there’s an enormous urge to stop short.

But after posting it, I feel light, confident, liberated. For years, I’ve known I should be approaching my work this way. Finally doing it feels amazing.

Please try the test. It takes about 15 minutes, including reading the post.

For those of you encountering resistance: I get it, I really do. Testing brings up every doubt we have, every time we’ve feared none of this is real, or that we’re simply not good at it. Take your time, feel into that resistance, accept it as part of yourself. Then do the work. Because on the other side of that wall is peace and confidence. That’s what proper testing does for us, that’s the reward for facing the resistance.

And thank you to everyone who participated already, and everyone who will in the coming weeks!

(And to those of you who are active on discussion groups or have your own blog, please share the project. Thank you!)

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The Heart of Science (Isn’t Testing)

Monday, May 30th, 2016

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In the past 300 years, science and technology have reshaped the lives of every human on the planet. Science is probably the most effective way we have of understanding the universe. What caused science to be so successful? And how can we apply that to developing effective energy healing and magick techniques?

As I talk about Healing Lab (researching energy healing), people keep expecting me to focus on testing healing techniques. And sure, you can’t do science without experiments. But humans have been testing things for millennia: Which herbs are useful for medicine, what month to plant which crops, the best wood for constructing longbows. Humans tested all those things long before science, with great success.

I’ve heard that pre-science testing called random testing: Just trying everything you can think of, without any real reasoning behind it. Try all the nearby plants, see which helps with headaches. Try various bow materials, see which shoots farthest. Random testing is great when we have several obvious solutions and want to know which works best.

One of Da Vinci's flying machines.

One of Da Vinci’s flying machines.

But that only works for obvious solutions. And the modern world is built on non-obvious solutions. A few examples: Before we understood aerodynamics, people tried to build flying machines with flapping wings, and completely failed. A fixed-wing aircraft isn’t something we could develop just by trying everything, there are too many possible answers, and the cost of testing each one is too high. Airplanes aren’t obvious. Neither are transistors (developing them requires quantum physics), antibiotics (requires germ theory of medicine), and most other solutions we rely on. To create any of those, we need to understand the world so well that we can see the non-obvious solutions.

Science is about creating that understanding. It’s about building a model of the world, refining that model through testing and experiment, then using that model’s predictions to solve new problems. The focus is on the model. That’s the difference between science and random testing.

How does this apply to energy healing and magick?

I’ve been trying to think of a simple, quick answer to that. The kind of “3 Easy Tips” that bloggers are supposed to have. But there’s no easy answer. So here’s the hard answer:

Most serious practitioners I know keep a journal, “Did this technique, got this result.” That’s excellent, and I’d tell anyone to do it. But I mostly see random testing, like trying a pile of techniques from the internet to see what works best for them. Again, that’s not a bad thing. But with a little a lot more effort, we can do more.

Try this: Review your journal. Look for patterns. Think about the moving parts of magick, whether that’s ethereal muscles and ethereal software or some other model you think is more accurate. But think about those moving parts as you review each test, think about why you got that result, what it tells you about how those parts behave and interact. Then (and this is the hard part), think of a new way to use those moving parts that ought to work better. Test it. See if your model made an accurate prediction, and adjust it based on the new data. Now, instead of testing someone else’s techniques, you’re creating new ones, advancing our knowledge of this art that we all care about so deeply.

Then publish your results, so we can all benefit. (And when you do, leave a comment linking to your post.)

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