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Vibrational medicine is a type of energy medicine. Energy medicine is based on vitalism, the metaphysical doctrine that living organisms possess a non-physical inner force or energy that gives them the property of life. This metaphysical force goes by many names: chi or qi (China), prana (India), ki (Japan); Wilhelm Reich's orgone, Mesmer's animal magnetism, Bergson's élan vital (vital force), Reichenbach's odic force, etc. American advocates much prefer the term energy or subtle energy. Many kinds of alternative therapies or energy medicines are based on a belief that health is determined by the flow of this alleged energy: acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, crystal therapy, therapeutic touch, reiki, and qigong are a few of the better known therapies. Not so well known are practices such as Aura-Soma, aura therapy, Comprehensive Energy Psychology, radionics, Sacred Santémony, and tone vibration transformation.
The founding father of modern vibrational medicine was Dr. Albert Abrams (1863-1924), the "dean of twentieth century charlatans."* Abrams called his healing method radionics and claimed that he was able to detect distinct energies or vibrations (radiation) being emitted from healthy and diseased tissue in all living things. He invented devices that allegedly could measure this energy (vibration, radiation) and he created a system for evaluating vibrations as signs of health or disease.
The fact that no scientific instrument has been able to detect subtle energy and that modern science abandoned vitalism more than a century ago has had little deterrent effect on the belief that health depends on an invisible form of energy. Worse, despite the lack of compelling scientific evidence for any form of energy medicine, there are many pseudoscientific devices on the market that claim to heal by vibrational therapy (see below). The sellers of these devices have found a niche market among the desperate who cling to magical thinking against the claims of science.
As true believers are wont to say: the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is, just because there is no compelling scientific evidence that subtle energy exists doesn't mean that such energy doesn't exist. True, but belief in subtle energy is based on faith. The compelling scientific evidence shows that what is often attributed to subtle energy is due to the placebo effect, is an illusion, or can be easily accounted for by other non-mysterious factors such as poor study design, regression to the mean, suggestion, conditioning, or the body healing itself naturally.
Vibrational medicine adds the twisted belief that subtle energies vibrate and that these vibrations are either healthy or unhealthy. (Note: there is absolutely no evidence for these beliefs about vibrations and there have been no scientific studies that have ever identified such vibrations.) Unhealthy vibrations in the body of a living thing can be brought into a healthy vibratory state by being influenced by objects emanating healthy vibrations. (Again, there is no scientific evidence for this belief; it is pure metaphysical fantasy.) For example, some people practice stone therapy in the delusional belief that different stones emanate vibrations at different frequencies and that these different frequencies can be used to treat different diseases. According to Phylameana lila Desy:
Whether or not you realize it, within each gemstone and crystal is housed healing properties. Ever wonder why you are attracted to a particular stone and not another? Nature finds a way to get the stones that carry the healing and spiritual properties that are most needed to us.
We all know, or should know, that sunlight provides energy (real energy, not subtle energy) and that a chemical reaction in the body converts some of that energy into vitamin D. Vibrational medicine thinks this process has to do with vibrations; it doesn't. There may be vibrations in the skin and in photons, but the vibrations themselves are neither healing nor harmful. Vibrational therapists believe that different colors of light have different healing properties. Many also believe that the colors of your aura (another chimera in the energy medicine cabinet) indicate health or sickness. Since you can't see these colors, you have to take the aura therapist's word for it that yours are off and need a few whacks with a crystal laser or some such thing.
You may have heard that the macrobiotic diet divides foods into yin and yang foods, and maintains that the healthiest diet balances these forces. Of course, there is no scientific basis for belief in yin and yang, but that has not stopped energy healers from making such claims as: "The foods we eat have a vibrational energy within them along with their nutritional values." (Again, this stuff is just made up. There is no evidence that foods have vibrational energies.) We are to believe that aromatherapy allegedly works because of the vibrations of various oils. I suppose, then, that drugs like marijuana have, in addition to their chemical effects on the body, particular vibrational energies that account for their differences in potency. Who knew?
Some vibrational therapists are apparently unaware of the periodic table and have no idea what modern chemistry has discovered about the elements around us.
Our world is comprised four basic elements. These are air, earth, fire, and water. Understanding what each element represents helps us evaluate where our individual strengths and weaknesses are. Healers have found that focusing on the elements and the vibrational energies associated with each of them is helpful when seeking what course of treatments would best address our problems.*
In ancient China, there were five elements, earth being divided into metal and wood. I'm surprised that western New Age chi enthusiasts rely on the western superstition instead of the more thorough eastern superstition.
Then there are the energy healers who treat people with sound. Those who are familiar with Mike Adams and his daily quackathon at what he calls Natural News will not be surprised to find that he thinks modern medicine's use of sound in the detection and treatment of diseases is an application of vibrational medicine. One of the more regressive therapies here is tuning fork therapy. If you suffer from lack of focus, are having trouble sleeping, or have a learning disorder then you need a brain tuner.
Like adjusting a piano, your body can be tuned to achieve optimal physical balance. Tapping two BioSonic tuning forks will instantaneously alter your body’s biochemistry and bring your nervous system, muscle tone and organs into harmonic balance.*
If it's balance that you want, you might try a placebo bracelet--they're much cheaper than BioSonic tuning forks.
Of course, most of us have experienced the pleasant and unpleasant effects of different sounds. Some are very soothing, e.g., Gregorian chanting; some are awesome, e.g., Japanese taiko drumming. The various effects of different musical sounds are well known. It is probably true that some of the frequencies that please or displease us have biological origins and may be traced through our evolutionary history. On the other hand, there is no good evidence that cancer cells vibrate at a certain frequency or that tuning forks or drums can produce healing frequencies that cure diseases.
John Edward, who claims to get messages from dead strangers who want him to pass the messages on to his paying customers, has taken vibrational woo-woo to another level. When asked on the Oprah Winfrey TV show why don't the dead speak plain English and just say "This is your aunt Mary McGillacutty," Edward replied that spirits are at a "high frequency" and we are at a "low frequency." He prays and meditates, he said, which allows him to approach a gap between the high and low frequencies where the garbled messages are picked up as "feelings" by him. How he knows this was not discussed. Oprah was very polite and even offered support for Edward's metaphysical musings by noting that ultimately we're all just vibrational energies, as was shown in "The Secret," another Oprah special interest. Claiming that we're all just vibrational energies is as inane as claiming we're nothing but dirt. Even so, the claim that we are all vibrations, as inane as it is, resonates with the lovers of the law of attraction as exemplified by Esther ("I am Abraham") Hicks.
Oschman and Gerber
Some believers in subtle energy and vibrational medicine have written to me that this stuff is science-based medicine, which I would surely see if only I would read James L. Oschman's Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis (2000) or Richard Gerber's Vibrational Medicine (originally published in 1998, 3rd ed. 2001).
From what I can gather from his website, Dr. Oschman (Ph.D. in the biological sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, 1965) became involved in acupuncture during the 1980s. I've also been interested in acupuncture for many years. There did seem to be some good evidence that acupuncture was having effects that could not be explained by modern medicine, e.g., by placebo effects. However, the evidence has grown over the years and now overwhelmingly supports the notion that acupuncture is indeed a placebo therapy. I don't doubt that Oschman is able to make a convincing case for energy medicine to those who are ignorant of much of the recent research. He sounds like a very intelligent and clever person. He should have little difficulty in producing a strong case for energy medicine as long as he is selective in the evidence he presents or doesn't evaluate the studies properly, and as long as his audience is unable to see his bias.
Oschman's book was published in 2000. There has been quite a bit of research since then that supports the notion that energy medicines like acupuncture, reiki, therapeutic touch, etc., have no effect beyond placebo effects and "false impressions of placebo effects" such as spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean, additional treatment, conditional switching of placebo treatment, scaling bias, irrelevant response variables, answers of politeness, experimental subordination, conditioned answers, neurotic or psychotic misjudgment, psychosomatic phenomena, misquotation, etc.* (For more on Oschman, see Dr. Harriet Hall's review of his book.)
Gerber is a medical doctor, but his expertise ceases once he moves beyond talk of X-rays and radiation therapy and starts to lecture us on how "vibrational medicine ... covers the more subtle forms of treatment such as acupuncture, homeopathy, flower essences, therapeutic touch, and that sort of genre. The latter involve using subtle life-force medicine, but they are energetic therapies nonetheless. This is the spectrum from the more traditional to a range of therapies that stress treatment of the whole person, sometimes referred to as ‘complementary’ medicine."* It's also sometimes referred to as quackery. Gerber asserts much, including that vibrational medicine is scientific, but he provides no compelling evidence in support of his beliefs:
Vibrational medicine is the first scientific approach I’ve seen that is able to integrate science and spirituality, something which has unfortunately been left out of the medical model. It’s only by viewing the body as a multi-dimensional energy system that we begin to approach how the soul manifests through molecular biology, if you will. Ultimately, that comes down to the whole issue of reincarnation and karma. It’s a difficult issue to grasp, especially for the larger medical community. They still have problems buying into homeopathy, let alone reincarnation. I think it is an area we need to begin to explore. There are various people doing past life regression work who are beginning to envision the soul’s progress through life, and illness as an expression of obstacles the soul is trying to overcome in the whole process of learning.* (italics added to emphasize how far from the norm Gerber has deviated)
Gerber has some interesting speculations, but medicine need not be built on metaphysics and faith anymore, and calling it science doesn't make it so.
[new] Stephen T. Sinatra
Stephen Sinatra is a cardiologist and admirer of Oschman, whom he quotes favorably in his explanation of his (Sinatra's) version of vibrational medicine. According to Sinatra:
All beings are conglomerations of electromagnetic energy. In essence, our bodies function—for better or for worse—as dynamic electrical circuits. Cells transmit and receive energy, and each has its own range of frequency within which it operates. Healthy cells, for instance, oscillate at higher frequencies than do unhealthy cells, such as cancer cells. James Oschman, Ph.D., a top expert and author of Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance (Butterworth-Heinemann) says all "organisms (are) poised to respond to minute ‘whispers’ in the electromagnetic environment," whether those fluctuations come from afar or near.
We may be poised to respond to electromagnetic fields in our environment, but not to "minute whispers...from afar." Oschman pulled that claim out of his arse. The fact that it impressed Sinatra should give you some idea of Sinatra's grounding in physics.
It gets better. According to Sinatra:
...vibrational frequencies hold the key to optimum health. Bioenergetic-supporting nutrients as well as avoidance of toxic EMF and wireless technologies, grounding the body, FIR sauna and the utilization of very low frequency pulsed electromagnetic waves are just a few of the exciting discoveries that assist the quantum energy of the body. This is the new wisdom that will assist us in the good vibe/bad vibe technological age.
Sinatra believes we are getting increasingly unwell due to electropollution: "the chaotic, unseen, and unfelt environmental electrical fields we humans are increasingly exposed to from all the electronics, appliances, and telecommunications in our lives." (He believes the evidence shows that power lines cause leukemia in children [it doesn't] and that cell phones cause brain cancers [it doesn't].) He knows the evidence isn't there to show that all these electric gadgets are harming us in dozens of ways. But, Sinatra reminds us "Illnesses like multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autism have been proliferating in recent years. The incidence of cancer is up, particularly among young people." So, we might as well blame electropollution because, after all, "every process in the body is regulated by dynamic electrical currents" and "we are highly tuned and highly sensitive bioelectrical creatures." Indeed. So what's the treatment for all this potentially damaging electropollution? As noted above, one treatment is "very low frequency pulsed electromagnetic waves." Hmm. I thought these electromagnetic gadgets were the problem, not the solution. Anyway, there's another treatment called grounding or earthing. What's that, you may wonder. It's standing barefoot on the earth so electrons can flow through your feet into your body and thin your blood, kill free radicals, and who knows what else. (Did this guy ever study physics?) So, two of the main treatments for electropollution is more electrons and more electromagnetism. Sounds just about right to me. What's the treatment for a broken arm? Hitting it with a hammer?
Listen to Dr. Sinatra explain grounding. If you know anything about physics and logic, you should find this video hilarious. It's wrong about the physics and offers contradictory advice based on his errors.
Dr. Harriet Hall has an article on Sinatra and grounding in Skeptic magazine (vol. 17 no. 4, 2012). I suggest anyone considering becoming an acolyte of Dr. Sinatra first read Dr. Hall's "Barefoot in Sedona: Bogus Claims About Grounding Your Feet to Earth Promote Medical Pseudoscience." [/new]
it never ends
Finally, there is a treatment being offered for osteoporosis called whole-body vibration therapy based on some experiments with astronauts and a few rodents. Before submitting to this therapy, which has not been scientifically tested on humans in a randomized controlled study, read this article.
See also aura therapy, bioharmonics, blind faith healing: a paradigm for the hopeless, electrophotography, Hulda Clark, Consegrity or Consilience Energy Mirrors, faith healing, radionics, Sacred Santémony, sham acupuncture, Energy Healing: Looking in All the Wrong Places and my review of Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine by R. Barker Bausell.
books and articles
Rife Device Marketers Convicted by Stephen Barrett, M.D.
"Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work" by Barry L. Beyerstein, Ph.D.
Reality Check: The Energy Fields of Life by Victor Stenger
Alternative Medicine and the Laws of Physics by Robert L. Park
websites & blogs
The Gentle Wind Project by Ivan Fraser and Steve Gamble
Vibrational Medicine Repackaged Learn all about BioAcoustics, the delusional repackaging of radionics by Sharry Edwards
Aura-Soma The delusion that the vibrational powers of color, crystals, and natural aromas combine with light in order to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit of mankind.
Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology This delusion helps people by addressing three chimeras that it calls "the human vibrational matrix." These folks believe we have three interacting energy systems: pathways (meridians and related acupoints), centers (chakras), and the biofield (systems of energy that envelop the body).
Sound of All Things: Toning "Once in the past in the last age sound was the main platform for which the whole of the civilization based it’s existence upon. It was an age unlike ours the development of human beings were often seen as gods for the abilities and attributes achieved which came with this vibrational based technology. A highly developed spiritually aware people through the mastery of sound within and upon the physical realm." If anyone can figure out what this website says let me know. It's written in a type of English I'm not familiar with.
Thiaoouba Prophecy Thiaoouba also claims that "Every atom in our body vibrates with the speed of light." Nonsense. Atoms vibrate, but vibrations have frequencies and amplitudes, not speeds.
ADR Energy Stimulators "Placing the disc directly over a part of your body affected by disease or, the corresponding acupuncture points, brings relief and promotes healing processes....[the disc is] a neutralizer of the untoward influence of electromagnetic fields on living organisms."
- Allows anyone to transmit energy patterns and solutions and to achieve effective "remote sessions" either by itself or with Rife, Clark, and other modalities
- Helps to reduce the stress on your body’s energetic system
- Neutralize stressful energetic residue that may be contaminating your foods
- Antidote and neutralize the energetic effects of chemicals and toxins in household products that may be weakening your body (such as household cleaning products)
- Neutralize harmful energies in your living area and land, including sick buildings, water and soil, greenhouses, farms, and agricultural applications
- A helpful tool for Feng Shui practitioners
- The most essential instrument for Energy Science professionals
Baar Wet Cell Battery System "The Baar Wet Cell Battery System is designed to help enhance the body's natural healing tendencies. The unit generates a very, very low electrical flow in the body. Passing this current through various solutions enhances the benefits of the Baar Wet Cell Battery system. This system is said to tap into the healing current vibrational medicine researchers are discovering." It is also said to be pseudoscientific nonsense.
According to inventor, naturopath Bruce Barr: "Vibrational solutions such as Gold, Silver, Camphor, etc. are purchased separately and will be determined by the information you are researching. If more than one solution (gold, silver, etc.) is indicated, then purchase an Additional Solution Jar Set (#141) for each. The system must be replenished with new chemicals every 30 days."* The expression "vibrational solution" is medical nonsense. According to Brian Dunning:
The use of a wet cell battery in New Age healing is the invention of Edgar Cayce, an early American celebrity psychic from the early 20th century. Cayce was best known for giving psychic readings on the sick, and developed a following of believers in psychic healing which still persists to this day. Virginia's Association for Research and Enlightenment, which claims tens of thousands of members, still promotes spiritual and psychic healing through methods developed by Cayce. One of these is the use of a wet cell battery. To use it, you mix chemicals in a bucket to create a weak battery. Next you mix the special "medicines", gold, silver, spirits, or iodine, in a secondary jar. [Barr sells solutions of gold, camphor, iodine, silver, iron and something he calls "GoldenSeal." ] A wire loops through these "medicines" and you apply the electrodes to your spine. You're supposed to do this for 30 minutes a day, and Cayce said months to years of daily application is required to get results. The claimed mechanism is "to introduce energy and medicinal vibrations directly into the body". There is no hypothesis behind the device suggesting how or why it might be useful.
You can generally smell a quack by his disclaimer. Barr, for example, offers what he calls the Barr Wet Cell Multiple Sclerosis Research Kit for about $500. The buyer is warned: "This system is offered for those researching the Edgar Cayce readings that reference "M.S." We offer this system for personal research only and do not make medical claims for its application. This system is not intended to replace qualified medical care" (emphasis added).
The Dynamizer. This was the invention of Dr. Albert Abrams (1863-1924), the "dean of twentieth century charlatans"* and the founder of radionics, the granddaddy of modern vibrational and subtle energy notions. The Dynamizer allegedly could transmit healthy vibrations to sick tissue or organs, thereby restoring them to a healthy state.
The Grail Stone. "The grail stone has been gifted to mankind by the higher forces of the universe to assist in his spiritual transformation and awakening..." Aren't we the lucky ones!
The Harmonizer will help "to retune those weaken [sic] disharmonious areas of the body commonly found over sites of illnesses." And pigs can fly.
PAP-IMI (Pap-Ion Magnetic Inductor) by William Nelson.The device pulses the body with electromagnetic waves that allegedly repair damaged cells. How it is supposed to do this is anybody's guess.
... one of [Albert] Abrams's many imitators was Royal Raymond Rife (1888-1971), an American who claimed that cancer was caused by bacteria. During the 1920s, he claimed to have developed a powerful microscope that could detect living microbes by the color of auras emitted by their vibratory rates. His Rife Frequency Generator allegedly generates radio waves with precisely the same frequency, causing the offending bacteria to shatter in the same manner as a crystal glass breaks in response to the voice of an opera singer. The American Cancer Society has pointed out that although sound waves can produce vibrations that break glass, radio waves at the power level emitted by a Rife generator do not have sufficient energy to destroy bacteria.*
Rife's work lives on in the practice of Diane Spindler (Dr. Spindler to you. She has a Ph.D. in nutrition from the American Holistic College of Nutrition in Birmingham, Alabama!), Renewal Enterprises (The Detox Box - MFG 1000 Micro Bio-Frequency Generator), Hulda Clark (the Zapper), and many others.