There is often an audible gasp of shock in my groups when I share that there is overwhelming evidence for the health benefits of spirituality, but there is virtually no evidence or theory for the benefits of spiritual and energy healing.
GOOD EVIDENCE AND RESEARCH FOR SPIRITUALITY AND HEALTH
Over the last decades there have been thousands of academic papers researching the connections between spirituality/religion and health. Dr Harold Koenig of Duke University for example aggregated 3,300 of these papers and the findings indicated a clear set of benefits. These covered physical and mental health, general wellbeing and the wider community. See his paper Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications
As well as the statistical evidence for the benefits there is also now clear theory explaining how they are achieved. Spirituality and religion deliver meaning, community, life style and specific practices all of which in general (not always) soothe anxiety, relax tissue and have beneficial effects on the neuro-endocrinal system, heart rate variability and gut flora. A great result for spirituality and religion! All without the intervention of God, vital energy, healing, spirits or any other metaphysical factors.
MINIMAL ACADEMIC EVIDENCE FOR SPIRITUAL HEALING
But when it comes to spiritual healing and a theory that explains healing energy/prana/chi – the research is not there.
This is bizarre, isn’t it? Because to anyone with the slightest inclination towards empathy, poetic imagination or kinaesthetic sensitivity, it is only too obvious that we live in a world of energy and energies. We feel them. We sense them. We know that they influence us.
We know that we radiate them and influence others.
And of course there are substantial healthcare traditions, such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, in which healing energy is a core element. Spiritual healing is obvious.
There is not however a solid body of research for its benefits. Nor is there a solid body of theory that explains what it is and how it works. From one perspective this does not matter because complementary and integrative healing stratgies, which include spiritual healing, are widely available. People use them.
But evidence and theory are important if we want to integrate energy healing into mainstream healthcare, which I do.
It is helpful therefore to know where good research is happening. We can refer to it when appropriate. We can also support it. So here are three links to very recent articles and resources that I have found useful. I hope you do too. They have all been published in recent weeks:
Institute of Noetic Sciences
Mapping the Field of Subtle Energy Fields
This is a very helpful overview of the different approaches and healing methods. Read here www.noetic.org/research/projects/mapping-the-field-of-subtle
Global Advances in Health and Medicine Special edition
Biofield Science and Healing: Toward a Transdisciplinary Approach
Their November issue online contains the best current overview of the research and theory in the field. They like to use the word ‘Biofield’. It is a good word. Maybe we should all use it. In it you will find thirteen articles with titles such as Biofield Science and Healing: Terminology and Concepts and Clinical Studies of Biofield Therapies: Summary, Methodological Challenges and Recommendations. Yes it is all a bit academic, but that is precisely what we need to support our case. http://www.gahmllc.com/digital_issues/biofield2015/
The Confederation of Healing Organisations
Two Meta-Analyses of Noncontact Healing Studies
This is research funded by the CHO and provides some useful evidence. The CHO is also funding some more research, which will need our help. I will inform you about it when it is online. Chris A. Roe, PhD, Charmaine Sonnex, BSc, MSc, and Elizabeth C. Roxburgh, BSc, PhD You can download the full paper here www.the-cho.org.uk/images/uploads/Two%20Meta-Analyses%20of%20Noncontact%20Healing%20Studies.pdf
There you go. A bit heady perhaps. But needed. And bless them for doing the hard work. Gratitude.