This could be a very short post, because when it comes to the science of biofields, there isn’t any. That’s why the NIH has used the word “putative.”*
That’s not to say there isn’t a talented scientist or two engaged in cutting edge investigation of these mysterious realities. The scientific community has fringe elements like any other community. But fringe scientists doing frontier science don’t get a lot of respect until their data — and cause — are taken up by the mainstream.
Science is a group conversation, and in any group, what matters is what most people are saying. That’s called consensus, and that’s what carries weight. Consensus can be wrong, but it’s foolish to buck it, especially when trying to establish credibility.
Unless done skillfully, reaching for science to bolster your presentation of Reiki will likely backfire. Only people who don’t need “proof” will be impressed; scientists are skeptical by nature and training, and readily find the holes in an argument.
So until such time as doctors are ordering kirilian photographs instead of CT scans and MRIs, don’t risk running your argument aground by confusing frontier science and conventional science.
If you want to lean on science, be humble. Deflect attention away from biofields, and focus instead on the research into how Reiki treatment can benefit people. Acknowledge first that the investigation is just beginning, then state that preliminary data suggest Reiki can help improve heart rate, blood pressure, and immunity, and reduce pain, anxiety, and depression.
We do not yet have enough research evidence to say more than that, and if you try to, you run the risk of discrediting yourself, and Reiki.
If you are communicating with physicians or other health care professionals who want more information, you needn’t do the heavy lifting yourself; just hand them the top three articles in the medical papers section.
The section of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that studies the safety and efficacy of complementary therapies such as Reiki is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). [Update: In recognition that the American public uses traditional healing practices to support rather than replace conventional medicine, NCCAM was renamed the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health NCCIH in 2014.]
NCCAM continually updates its website, but here is what NCCAM has said about biofields: “Some CAM practices involve manipulation of various energy fields to affect health. Such fields may be characterized as veritable (measurable) or putative (yet to be measured). Practices based on veritable forms of energy include those involving electromagnetic fields (e.g., magnet therapy and light therapy). Practices based on putative energy fields (also called biofields) generally reflect the concept that human beings are infused with subtle forms of energy; qi gong, Reiki, and healing touch are examples of such practices.”
I was the principal reviewer for the NIH/NCCAM Reiki Backgrounder posted on the NCCAM website. It has since been updated, but Reiki practitioners have asked me to keep the document available. This document has no copyright and you are encouraged to use it freely.
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