We are energy
As individuals, we are energetic beings, beings of light. That is, we are constructed out of atoms and atomic particles in constant motion. While our bodies appear to be solid, at an atomic level we are composed of much more space than matter. In fact, it has been said that if the atomic space in a human body were to be compared to the height of the Empire State Building, it would amount to less than a grain of sand. Our atomic structure and electromagnetic nature creates a field that extends beyond our bodies. Classically, this field has been called the human aura. But contemporary researchers into the nature of the human energy field have termed it the human biofield.
We in the West think of this energy simply as auric or biofield energy, but other cultures have specific names for the energy that is both within us and around us. In China and Korea it is Qi; in Japan, Ki; and in portions of the world with a Sanskrit or Ayurvedic heritage, it is Prana.
The ancients described a further energy phenomenon: spinning vortices of energy in particular bodily locations. These vortices have various names across cultures, but the Vedic term chakras is most commonly used today.
Chakras are centers of energy exchange between the body and the environment. Although chakras are represented as surface disks on two-dimensional representations of the body, in fact they are three-dimensional, permeating the body and originating from a central channel that is said to lie in front of the spine. There is a constant exchange of information and energy between the central channel, the chakras, the rest of the body, and the field around the body.
Energy can be seen, even by those of us who do not have “auric sight.” It is a bit like looking at the vapor that can be seen coming from a fire. To see it, it is necessary to soften and widen one’s vision, as if allowing peripheral vision to do the work.
Those with auric color sight see the colors as almost transparent. The colors associated with the chakras represent energy frequencies. A standard set of colors are generally described, characteristic of the spin frequency of the energy in particular locations within the body. The slowest, or root chakra, is red; the fastest, white (or sometimes purple). In fact, however, the colors may vary widely, depending upon how individual chakras are used energetically by the individual. The chakras shown in this slide are the primary chakras, but there is also a secondary chakra at each joint of the body, and in the palm of the hand and the sole of the foot.
Our electromagnetic or energetic nature means that movement within our bodies can be tracked by sensors at the surface of our bodies.
In medicine, we routinely track certain kinds of energy by the use of tools previously mentioned such as electrocardiograms, electromyelograms, and electroencephalograms.
But what of the “subtle energy” of the chakra system and the human biofield?
The overall auric field reflects the color of dominant chakra activity. In the West, since the brain and its function is a dominant concern (represented by the 3rd chakra and the color yellow), our fields often tend to look yellow. Alternatively, the fields are commonly blue in color. However, we in the West tend toward disbelief in such things. If we can’t see it, it’s hard to believe it exists!
It would seem that trying to track the energy of the human biofield,—the aura—or any of the chakras would be an exercise in futility, a little like jousting with windmills.
The human energy field can be tracked
Enter Dr. Valerie Hunt, of the Department of Kinesiology at UCLA. Dr. Hunt is a neurophysiologist with a doctorate from Columbia who worked extensively with Sister Kennedy in the rehabilitation of patients during the polio epidemic in the 1940s, and taught at Columbia, the University of Iowa, and UCLA, where she is Professor Emeritus of Physiological Science (Department of Kinesiology). Schooled in rigorous research methods and pursuing traditional research foci, she had no thought of examining the human energy field, nor did she even presume that such a field existed. Her research centered on individual movement behavior, muscular activity (both skilled and pathological), and neuromuscular emotional patterning.
It happened that her laboratory in the medical school kinesiology department was right next to the UCLA dance department, so dance students were ready candidates for her research into skilled muscle movement. Our of the blue one day, a dance student asked Dr. Hunt to measure what was happening when the student danced in an altered state of consciousness. Dr. Hunt refused, neither knowing how to measure consciousness nor even how to define it.
As she considered the problem, however, she wondered whether looking at muscle stimulation as a neurological phenomenon might provide a clue to consciousness levels. So she instrumented the dancer, placing EMG (electromyographic) electrodes on her lower arm, her upper arm, and her back muscles, reasoning that those muscles were controlled by different levels of the spinal cord and brain, so their activity might in some differential manner be suggestive of shifts of consciousness.
Having no knowledge of the chakra system but having heard of it, she impulsively placed an electrode as well on the top of the dancer’s head. Five minutes into the dance, normal recording shifted: the lower arm signal stopped, then that of the upper arm, then the spine! The recording engineer swore that the equipment was functioning properly, despite what seemed to be happening. When the dancer moved to a seated “tailor’s position,” still in an altered state, there was no signal over her spine, though it was clear that she needed to use spinal muscles to hold her body erect. Dr. Hunt was floored: skeletal muscle, which signals the presence of life, was not registering! But the electrode on the top of the dancer’s head showed enormous energetic activity–more, in fact, than the equipment was able to properly record–for seven minutes. Then the signal from the dancer’s head diminished; and first her back, then her upper arm, and finally her lower arm muscles began to register again. Dr. Hunt had no explanation for the phenomenon, but it certainly piqued her interest!
Being familiar with dancers from the UCLA dance department, Dr. Hunt noted at a student dance that a few of the dancers had improved much more than others. When she spoke to them about the change in their movement, they attributed it to Rolfing, or Structural Integration, a technique developed by Dr. Ida Rolf to stretch inelastic connective tissue. Dr. Rolf believed that by her methods individuals might correct muscular imbalances that are often responsible for poor posture, pain and disability. But these dancers had elected to be Rolfed to improve their flexibility, and it resulted in freer movement.
Since the fascia of muscle is electrically conductive due at least in part to being piezoelectric when stretched, Dr. Hunt reasoned that connective tissue such as fascia, tendons and ligaments must act not only structurally but also as a modulator of the flow of electromagnetic energy throughout the body. She began to study dancers before and after Rolfing, and found that their movement post-Rolfing was more efficient, smoother and took less effort than prior to Rolfing (Hunt 1978, 1982, 1989).
Emilie Conrad and Valerie Hunt
Emilie Conrad is a classically trained dancer who expanded her world of consciousness and movement through five years of immersing herself as a young adult in life in Haiti. She gradually developed a movement technique of her own which she calls continuum, an exploration of fluid movement which can be profound. Hearing of Dr. Hunt’s research with dancers in altered states of consciousness, which suggested that movement might be sustained by something other than the nervous system, in 1974 she sought an interview with Dr. Hunt to see if she could reach a better understanding of her own movement work. Dr. Hunt immediately invited her to move while instrumented, so she did so, calling up the varying states of consciousness and body-densities her dancing evoked (Conrad 2007).
Dr. Hunt was stunned by the result. In Dr. Hunt’s words, “she danced strenuously, even acrobatically, for 30 minutes with a perfection and repertoire superior to any I had seen in a single dancer. . . . To my surprise neither the heart rate nor blood pressure had elevated; in fact, both had dropped slightly. To make things worse, she was not perspiring nor was she breathing heavily” (Hunt 1989, p. 13). Dr. Hunt could not account for the fact that she completely lacked any evidence for exertion on Conrad’s part, so she asked Conrad why she thought her body didn’t seem to reveal the effort she had just put out. Conrad’s response was, “The best way I can describe this to you, Dr. Hunt, is that I created a wave and rode it” (Conrad 2007, p. 226). But no obvious outside force had pushed her. What was this wave she had created? Plenty to ponder here!
To explore the “fluid undulations” Emilie Conrad produced and to try to understand the electromagnetic field effects of the altered states of consciousness Conrad reached as she moved, Dr. Hunt and Conrad met almost weekly thereafter.
When she initially instrumented Conrad, Dr. Hunt placed sensors in place that were designed to measure muscle tissue and basic organ vibrations. But the data from the electrodes showed frequencies that seemed to originate from a source other than Conrad’s physical systems. Repeating her tests many times, Dr. Hunt realized that she had discovered a dynamic field of energy surrounding the human body that had never previously been recorded with scientific instruments.
Conrad’s fluid dancing consisted of myriads of micro-movements involving every part of her body including her lips, face and throat. Working with a mirror, she had become able to separately move virtually every muscle in her body. One night, trying to relieve the soreness in her husband’s leg, she placed her hands on the leg and found that she was spontaneously inducing micro-movements not only within herself but also in him, which relieved his leg pain. She began to experiment with pain in others as well, and found that she could be helpful. Something about the micro-movements she produced seemed to entrain movements within her subjects that eased tension and pain.
It happened that a young man soon came to her attention whose mother had had a significant accident while five-months pregnant with him. (This was still 1974.) He was felt to have suffered some kind of “neuro discordance” in utero as a result of the accident, so that as a young adult he was virtually without affect, and had uncoordinated eyes, jerky movements, and limited and halting speech. Conrad worked with him using her emerging continuum work, spiraling around him within his energy field. Over weeks, his “neural discordance” shifted toward neural congruence. Having this success but unable to explain it, Conrad sought out Dr. Hunt to ask her to apply her research techniques to the work.
Rosalyn Bruyere joins the team
Meanwhile, Conrad had heard about “auras” from psychic healers she was meeting as she tried to understand what she herself was doing. She asked around among the healers for a referral to an “aura reader” who might be helpful in the research, then spoke to Dr. Hunt about the idea. Dr. Hunt responded, “What’s an aura reader? (Conrad 2007, p. 230)”! But she was open to new ideas, so she, Conrad, the young man, and Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, the aura reader, gathered for an instrumented healing session. Skilled witnesses were also present, including nursing department and medical school professors and professors from Dr. Thelma Moss’s parapsychology lab at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, where the brain-damaged young man had been previously evaluated. He had had an abnormal EEG (electroencephalogram) before Conrad’s work with him, and had improved not only clinically but also by EEG while they worked together (Hunt 1989, Conrad 2007).
Being new to chakras, Dr. Hunt had to be shown where they were. Led by her own example in instrumenting the crown chakra of her original dancer, she had the temerity to place leads on the chakras as if they were muscles, in case there might be electromagnetic activity there. She observed and recorded the treatment session, and Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere “read” the action and colors of the young man’s field while Conrad did her healing work, which appeared to be a shamanic healing ritual. Data tape simultaneously recorded electrical activity, chakra colors (oscilloscope patterns), Conrad’s shamanic chanting, Bruyere’s aura reports, and Dr. Hunt’s description of Conrad’s movements. It was a three-hour session. At the end, the patient exhibited a stable alpha-theta brainwave pattern, the pattern of deep relaxation, meditation and drowsiness.
The results surprised Dr. Hunt. An initial glance at the telemetry recordings suggested extensive equipment artifacts, but a more thorough review revealed a systematic pattern that appeared to be an electromagnetic energy reading of the human aura. Furthermore, each change in either the aura or the chakra energy reported by Bruyere was reflected in the telemetry recordings from instrumented regions of the body, including bursts of activity at the crown chakra. There was no oscilloscope tracing correlation between the recorded electrical patterns and Conrad’s sounds or movements. From this initial exploration, Dr. Hunt (placing electrodes, collecting data, and observing interactions), Bruyere (reading auras from behind a one-way mirror and recording what she saw), and Conrad (doing healing work during which she also reported the color of the energy frequency she felt she was sending) began a four-year research collaboration into the nature of the human aura (Hunt 1989).
As the collaboration began, Conrad came upon a young woman who 23 years earlier had had polio as an infant. The muscles of her left leg had completely atrophied secondary to lost neural innervation (validated by electromyography [EMG]); what remained were non-contractile bands of connective tissue. The woman wore a long-leg brace and walked with extreme difficulty. Dr. Hunt was trained originally as a physical therapist before World War II, and had had extensive hospital experience in New York City using Sister Kenny techniques to work with severely compromised polio victims. When Emilie Conrad asked her to record and explain Conrad’s healing work with the young woman, Dr. Hunt’s response was, “What the heck am I going to measure? There’s not going to be anything there. Do you actually think you’re going to regrow the muscles in her leg? Don’t you know that muscles do not regenerate? Once they’re gone, they’re gone. I don’t think you should waste your time with this” (Conrad 2007, p. 234). But during the first treatment, as Conrad moved her hands above the involved leg, Dr. Hunt observed “a rippling motion not ordinarily seen with normal muscle contraction and never present in paralyzed muscle” (Hunt 1989, p. 14). Over several years of work with Conrad four times a week, the young woman recovered much of her capacity for movement, and EMG recordings verified her neuromuscular regeneration. The contours of her leg normalized, and she could walk unassisted (without brace or crutches). Dr. Hunt was hard-pressed to give an explanation, and could only respond that while muscle cells cannot re-grow, perhaps undifferentiated cells were present that had been imprinted as muscle cells through Conrad’s work. Said Dr. Hunt reflecting on Conrad’s insouciance in undertaking the work, “It’s a good thing you don’t know anything about anatomy!” (Conrad 2007, p. 243).
Asian healing is introduced to the West
In 1972, President Nixon undertook his historic visit to China, and health workers in the United States began to be aware of the very different health-and-medical culture in the East. Dr. Hunt was struck by the number of people whom traditional Western rehabilitation didn’t satisfactorily help but who reported improvement using techniques garnered from other healing traditions, largely from the East. Being a “show me” kind of person, she took a sabbatical leave to travel to several countries in Asia (Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand) to learn what she could about some of those traditions. At a pain control clinic in Japan, she saw a screaming woman brought in who had blistering (at least second-degree) steam burns on both arms. The staff immediately wrapped aluminum foil around her arms, and attached it with clothespin clamps to lead wires that in turn were attached to acupuncture needles with which they needled her opposite legs, just below her kneecaps. Twenty minutes later, the patient appeared to be relaxed and pain-free. After three or four days of treatments, her formerly turgid and red-blue skin was of normal color, without scarring or peeling. The clinic staff explained that in response to the burn trauma, energy from elsewhere in the woman’s body had rushed to the burned area, putting pressure on nerves and blood vessels with resultant pain and swelling. Their treatment had drained the excess energy into her legs. Witnessing such an event made it clear to Dr. Hunt that she had to more thoroughly understand the phenomenon of so-called “subtle energy,” and to to determine if it was real (Hunt 1989)!
New equipment is required
When Dr. Hunt returned to the United States, she set about researching the human biofield more completely. However, her equipment was not capable of picking up the full range and intensity of the fields she wanted to study. Intent upon overcoming the limitation of her equipment, Dr. Hunt sought help from a NASA engineer who had developed a telemetry system for reporting the vital signs and muscle activity of astronauts aboard the first manned space probes. The system he devised with her was an FM radio system free of the wires that measuring equipment had previously required. Dr. Hunt needed a very highfrequency device, since the body surface energy frequency she wished to measure was 8-10 times faster than the energy frequencies measured by previous devices (EEGs, ECGs, and EMGs). The new telemetry system could handle frequencies from zero up to 250,000 Hz, a thousand times higher than the capability of previous systems. The new device measured direct current and was sensitive enough to record a continuous millivoltage signal from the surface of the subject’s body, so that the researchers could constantly monitor the auric field. The voltage at the surface of the body is about 1/2 to 1/3 that of resting muscle, but is greater than that of white noise (which measures about a millionth of a volt), so that discrimination between auric field signal and background noise is possible with the appropriate instrument. Dr. Hunt called the new device an AuraMeter™ (Hunt 1989).
Ida Rolf becomes part of the team
In January, 1975, Dr. Hunt began to collaborate with Dr. Ida Rolf. Originally trained as a biochemist at Rockefeller Research Institute and Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Rolf expanded her work to include organic chemistry and then turned her attention to issues of physical disability. She became intrigued by the body’s relationship to gravity and by the soft tissue distortions and pain that resulted from structural imbalances in the body in relationship to gravity. Over time, she developed the system of deep tissue manipulation together with movement education that she called Structural Integration, and which Dr. Hunt had become familiar with as “Rolfing.”
Drs. Hunt and Rolf put together a research study to look at the muscle effects of Structural Integration in which not only muscle groups but chakras would be instrumented; additionally, EEG electrodes were positioned on subjects’ heads. They enrolled 48 individuals in the study: 24 experimental subjects and 24 controls matched for physical characteristics, age, and emotional balance. Over a five-week period, the members of the experimental group each received a basic “Ten Series” of treatments. Each experimental subject was treated alternately by two “Rolfers” chosen by Dr. Rolf. In the course of the five-week period, the experimental subjects showed improved neuromuscular organization and balance, which led to improved efficiency of motor performance. Additionally, the experimental group displayed significantly less state anxiety (p = <.01) at the conclusion of Rolfing than did the controls (Hunt 1989).
For the purpose of this discussion, however, it is a subset of four of the experimental subjects who deserve our attention, because they are the ones whose chakras were not only monitored by electronic equipment during their forty Rolfing sessions, but whose chakras and fields (and the fields of the Rolfers) were also observed by Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, the aura-reader in Dr. Hunt’s previous collaboration with Emilie Conrad. Bruyere microphone-recorded her moment by moment impressions of the size, color, and movement changes in the chakras and energy fields (both study subjects’ and Rolfers’), while the subjects used a separate microphone to describe their feelings, impressions, and experiences as they were Rolfed. At the same time, Dr. Hunt observed the oscilloscope patterns from the telemetry recording booth, and, if she had questions about what was occurring, could directly communicate with Bruyere. About 60 hours of recordings were collected.
The aura readings frequently revealed the chakra colors to be those classically assigned to them in the metaphysical literature. Furthermore, the overall field colors shifted from darker colors in the first three sessions for each subject to light blue in the fifth session and then to variations of pink, peach and blue. Very large cream-colored auras (the first that Bruyere had ever seen, seemingly the direct result of Rolfing) began to appear in session eight and persisted through the remaining sessions, as well as into the period after testing was complete. When subjects experienced pain from the Rolfing (Rolfing has a contemporarily undeserved reputation of being quite painful, but has been modified as a technique since Ida Rolf taught it), red spikes appeared in the field. The red moved back and forth from red to orange as the subjects emotionally dealt with the pain (orange being the traditional color of the second, or emotional, chakra); when the subjects applied intellectual tools to deal with the pain, the spikes turned yellow (the traditional color of the third, or mental chakra).
The Rolfers’ hands were observed to have a blue or white field during the work; but when a subject expressed pain, the hand-field of each Rolfer quickly shifted to a violet pink (said traditionally to be a loving, “spiritual” color) as the Rolfer tried to diminish the pain and calm the field of the subject.
The oscilloscope tracings brought surprise
It was heartening to know that the colors the aura reader saw were in accord with those in the classical literature, but what floored the researchers were the oscilloscope findings! The recordings for each chakra showed a frequency range for that chakra corresponding to what might be classically expected, and in each case the range was consistent with the color seen by Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere (although each chakra also carried a bit of every color, predicted by a theory of redundancy among the chakras).
Here, on the left (when I get permission to include them), are spectrograms from chakras III, IV and V. If you look at the right side of the chart at the Fourier analysis graphs, you can see a spike at the far left (circled in blue). That is a blue that represents background muscle movement; it can also be seen at the bottom of the energy field spectrograms.
When registering a “blue” chakra (the fifth), the baseline throughout the blue region is elevated (circled in the slide on the right).
A major spike (circled in red on the slide on the left) occurred in the yellow area for chakra III (the “yellow” chakra).
Interestingly, the primary colors—red blue and yellow— spiked in a fairly narrow frequency range or “region.” But colors such as green, orange and violet—which are secondary blends of the primary colors—had broader frequency ranges, carrying spikes of the primary colors that create their blends. E.g., green (circled on both slides) is a blend of blue and yellow (Hunt 1989).
Orange, a blend of red and yellow (circled on the slide on the right), demonstrates the same conglomerate effect as green on the Fourier graph. Note that each of the colors has a characteristic wave shape.
EEG, heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rates were being monitored along with the chakra and field recordings. When an “event” (such as pain) occurred, the field registered a response before it showed up on EEG, or as a change in heart rate, blood pressure, or respiratory rate. It appears therefore that the human biofield is more sensitive to change than is any other aspect of being—in my opinion, a profound finding.
Here is a representation of the chakras and the average wave shapes for each (again, when I have permission to include them). The aura reader saw colors that were consistent for each of the chakras, so her color descriptions have been applied to the wave forms for the corresponding chakras. As you can see, the wave form generated from each chakra is distinguished by a characteristic frequency and amplitude.
Here is an example of the frequency patterns of a particular individual across the chakras. Some subjects had more expansive biofields than others, which resulted in a slight upward shift of frequencies. Others, whose fields were more constrained, had frequency registrations that were more compact and shifted downward. But for all subjects, the ordering of colors and patterns were the same. The color and pattern sequences were similar, additionally, regardless of who was giving the treatment. Subtracting muscle recordings, the primary frequencies ranged from 300 Hz to more than 1,100 Hz.
Here is a representation of the electromagnetic spectrum.
And this is the region of visible light.
Again, here is the electromagnetic spectrum, showing the region of visible light.
But here (circled on the right) is where the auras registered, as sound. Energies registering as sound were seen by the aura reader. The vibratory nature of the auric field, as demonstrated by this research, is clearly auditory. Often healers, as they send energy, feel vibrations. Some, additionally, hear associated sound. And of course, others see. As an interesting aside, a study by Creath and Schwartz looking at seed germination revealed that musical sound or bioenergetic healing would cause okra and zucchini seeds to sprout faster than control seeds treated with pink noise (used to test loudspeakers) or with nothing (Creath and Schwartz, 2004). The identification of the part of the spectrum where energy frequencies from the chakras or from the hands of a healer register does not help us to understand how people “see” auras. Perhaps some people actually have the capacity to see frequencies that are generally not considered to be in the visible range. Perhaps auric field frequencies are also present in frequency ranges beyond the capacity of our current equipment. Or perhaps the brains of those who can “see” take auditory frequencies and translate them into visual data. Further research around these questions is clearly indicated.
We know from Dr. Hunt’s landmark research that the energy vortices we call chakras actually exist and that indeed there is a general energy field that pervades and surrounds the body, the so-called “aura.”
The human biofield and healing
But having established that the energy field—the biofield—exists, what does this mean for healing?
If the patient or the client (terms dictated by the nature of the practitioner’s training) has a biofield, and the healer has a biofield, and if the two of them are in proximity, then they must share a conjoint field.
In further work by Dr. Hunt, simultaneous measurements of the biofields of experienced healers and their patients showed that the biofields generally affected one another, reaching a kind of coherence during treatment. The shared energy pattern seems to be a component of successful healing work.
But in a study with back-to-back blindfolded subjects, Dr. Hunt found that not all individuals are susceptible to the “suggestion” made by the presence of another energy field. On the other hand, some individuals are very open to that “suggestion,” even to the extent of becoming dominated by the pattern of the other individual’s field. Where the exchange was most balanced, the fields of both individuals became alike, but different from what they were before the interaction. There is an aphorism among healers that “the biggest aura wins,” meaning that the ideally larger, denser, more coherent field of the healer will have a positive effect on the field of the healee.