You have done an exceptional amount of research on energy healers. What were your findings?
Most of my research has focused on two healers, Olga Worrall, whom I met at a conference on acupuncture at Stanford, and Ostad Hadi Parvarandeh from Iran. As energy healers go, those two were quite exceptional. They could affect the brain wave pattern of a person from 100 feet away.
In addition, both Ostad and Olga documented several miraculous cures they had brought about. Ostad showed me documentation for a hundred medically unusual cures. Unfortunately, both Olga and Ostad are now deceased. However, there is currently a young man from Russia, Boris Parfenov, who appears to have promise. He has not yet been studied very much, and it's too early to say if he is going to fall into the same category as those two.
In your book you say that many individuals who call themselves healers actually appear to achieve their results through the placebo effect.
That's true with many healers. Here we get back to the element of faith. If both the patient and the healer believe in it, then you have a better chance of having something happen. To some extent, every person is a potential healer if he or she has strong belief and willpower.
What does that say about the relative effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of a specific healer?
It's a hard thing to measure. For instance, I would put Olga Worrall and Ostad Hadi Parvarandeh in the genius-at-healing category, but even in their cases, successful healing wasn't guaranteed. They had a number of documented cures but what percentage of all the people they saw got better? We don't know.
Many of the people who go to healers have chronic or even terminal conditions that cannot be addressed by any other means. So to expect the healer to have a high success rate in these cases naturally isn't fair. To get a true sense of the effectiveness of a healer, we would need to do a cross section of people with all types of diseases and look at the results. But that has not been done.
You have also done a great deal of research on people you call "medical intuitives."
Yes. In 1973 I tested some 75 people who had powers as medical intuitives--people who could accurately diagnose an illness from a distance without knowing anything about the patient or the symptoms. In those days we called it "clairvoyant diagnosis," but I later changed it to "intuitive," because that's easier for people to accept. Although many of them had accuracy rates that were better than chance, only 5 of them could accurately diagnose 70 to 75 percent of the time. So only 1 out of 15 of those people was good enough to be of some use to the patients.
Then about 15 years ago I met Caroline Myss. When I checked her out, she was 93 percent accurate in both physical and psychological diagnoses.
How do you test medical intuitives for accuracy?
I give them the names of three patients who have significant physical problems. I am looking for an unequivocal ability to tell me something that is true about that person that they could not have already known.
Unfortunately, good medical intuitives are very, very rare. These days there are a number of people who hang out their shingle and claim to be one. I receive letters from such people about once a month asking me to give them a sort of Good Housekeeping seal of approval. However, when I write back and give them three names of patients to diagnose, 99 percent of the time they are not even 10 percent accurate!
I gave one such woman my own name, and she gave me three pages of gobbledy-gook. Another woman wrote me a letter purporting to diagnose me without even asking my permission in advance. She wrote, "I sense that you have leukemia." I knew I didn't have leukemia, and a blood test confirmed that. I wrote back to her and said, "You know, to me this is psychic malpractice. You have no right to approach me with your nonsense or suspicions without even asking my permission."
That is perhaps the biggest negative feature of the growing interest in medical intuition. There are a number of people who feel, claim, or otherwise think they can help you make a diagnosis. Such people are a danger to the world. If you go to such people thinking that they have psychic abilities, and they have none, they expose you to a lot of risk.
What should people look for in an effective healer?
I would want to see independent recommendations from at least 10 people who believe they have been helped by that person in a significant way. I wouldn't take the word of one or two, and I'd want to see a cure, rather than just some form of short-term improvement.
Many people experience short-term improvements when they see energy healers, but it is much more rare to see results that last. A friend of mine who was a healer used to do regular healing sessions with the pain patients at our clinic. Almost inevitably, every single patient had relief of pain. However, with one exception, the pain returned the following day. Although everybody would like to have a miraculous, sudden, spiritual healing, in most cases, it doesn't last. Whatever the patient's underlying unfinished business is--either physically or emotionally--it usually comes back.