Despite the recognition by modern medicine that electrophysical exchanges underlie most cellular activity, scant attention has been directed to the possible existence of a total or unified field or fields underlying the human organism. Such recognition might revolutionise modern medicine in the areas of causation, diagnosis and treatment of disease. This article briefly explores the work of five medical scientists. They were all bold enough to pursue investigations that indicated information for growth, disease and repair is transmitted by the total electro-magnetic field, and perhaps even by more subtle fields underlying the physical body.
When reviewing the medical research featured in this article, a major challenge relates to the different terminology used by each researcher. For instance, the Life Fields of Burr, the Etheric Formative forces of Steiner, and the Morphogenetic fields of Sheldrake all seem to carry a common theme but each is from a different perspective. The other challenge for the medical reader is the dearth of peer reviewed research. The subjects reviewed cover a period of 60 years and most of the research does not appear to have been repeated recently.
Another difficulty is the possible confusion derived from the fact that the electromagnetic (EM) field of the body is measurable, whereas the interface or more subtle etheric field is not as yet measurable with physical instruments. William Tiller, formerly professor of material science at Stanford University, differentiated the electro-magnetic field from the etheric by calling the latter the magneto-electric. 1 From the various observations explored here, a useful and synthetic view is possible and this view might provide useful information to the orthodox medical practitioner and other therapists.
The concept of a human energy field in natural medicine goes back 200 years to Nature Cure therapists. They promoted the concept of a vital force that was often diminished or disturbed before physical disease takes place. Their treatments were based on promoting the life force or energy through sunbaking, good nutrition, rest and relaxation. 2 Water treatments were used to flush out toxins plus the use of traditional herbal remedies to improve and balance energies. Modern nutritional and naturopathic medicine has developed complex approaches to the exhausted and toxic states of many clients today. Yet even amongst natural therapists there is reluctance to explore and acknowledge the human energy field, possibly from pressure to join the evidence-based camp.
Exploration of medical scientists exploring human energy fields begins with an American who started researching the subject in 1938.
Harold Burr and Life Fields
Between the years of 1938 and 1970 Burr published 90 papers on the Life Fields. In his professional life he was a lecturer in neuro-physiology at Yale University USA, but his work on the Life Fields was never fully acknowledged. The Life Field was described by Burr as an electro-dynamic field which can be seen to vary in health and disease. The intensity of the field is measured using a vacuum-tube or digital voltmeter to measure voltage gradients (the difference in voltage between two points). Burr used silver chloride electrodes. He found the gradients to fluctuate each month to form a smooth sine wave in healthy persons with a variation of 2 – 10 millivolts between the points measured. 3 However, gradients varied strongly in the female mammal during ovulation, at puberty, and provided a wild electrical pattern in some patients suffering mental diseases such as schizophrenia. As one practical example resulting from Burr’s discoveries – the measurements were used as an accurate guide to ovulation as the intensity of the field increases greatly at these times. This would perhaps be a cheap and quick way of helping cases of infertility or for contraception needs.
Implications for Diagnosis
Because measurements can be taken without the electrodes touching the skin, Burr considered he was measuring a field phenomenon and he described this field as serving as a mold for physical cells – providing the pattern for growth. He found changes in the Life Field to take place before physical disease occurs. This finding was underscored by a colleague in the area of gynaecology at Belleview State Hospital, New York. Louis Langmans experimented with one thousand women suffering pelvic problems. Of 102 women with disturbance in their Life Field, 96 were found following biopsy to have malignant changes to the cells. A diagnostic instrument based on the research was designed and patented in Australia over two decades ago. However there was no support from the medical fraternity or investors and the shares on the stock market languished.
One of the most famous experiments conducted by Burr involved the direction for growth in electrical terms of the central nervous system in a salamander. This direction was found to be established in the egg before fertilisation and to remain unchanged throughout growth to adulthood. We could ask what implications this finding might have in the human system if a woman is exposed to EM fields that may over-ride the delicate EM field of her ovaries. Many women during pregnancy are sitting daily before computer terminals with routers discharging microwaves via wireless technology. The levels emitted are far in excess of international standards for health, designated to be below 10 microwatts per square metre. 4 Several decades later we come to the work of Robert Becker M.D. who took the work of Burr much further and who was very concerned with the effects of electrical products on humans.
Robert Becker and the Transmission of Information via EM Body Fields
Robert Becker MD and some of his co-workers appear to have shown conclusively that the pattern for growth and development in living organisms is intimately connected to electromagnetic fields associated with the nervous system. Becker was a researcher in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the State University of New York. Prior to his work Lund and Burr had discovered that the electromagnetic field associated with the body had direct current (DC) potentials providing direction for morphogenetic and growth processes. The field is described by Becker as dipolar i.e. a head/tail axis and is a summation of all the individual fields of all cells in the organism.
Becker repeated the experiments of Burr in the sixties and found the field to be complex rather than dipolar. He states in his book The Body Electric that “evidence is quite conclusive that there are steady DC electrical currents flowing outside the neurones proper throughout the body. These are non-ionic in nature and similar to semi-conducting type currents. Perineural cells appear to be the most likely site at which the currents are generated and transmitted. They constitute a system for transmission of very basic data.”5
Becker proved the relationship of this field to the nervous system through experiments in which he reversed the usual polarity through application of an external electrical current. The animal lost consciousness as the front vector on the head which is normally negative became positive. The back vector was reversed at the same time. 6
In 1952, Beams and Marsh conducted an experiment reported in The Body Electric along the same lines with flatworms. These worms when cut normally re-generate with the head on the same end as occurs naturally. By introducing an external current to reverse the usual electrical gradient, the head and tail grew in reversed positions. Becker concluded that the electrical gradient transmitted morphological information i.e. information for growth and development.
Electrical Parameters in Limb Regeneration
In 1972, Becker achieved regeneration of the forearm of a rat by implanting negative electrodes in the amputation stump. This work was repeated by Rose in 1982 in salamanders who had been completely de-enervated in the forearm. In other words, electrical parameters were introduced to mimic what occurs naturally in re-generating animals like the salamander.
Becker found it was the neuro-epidermal junction that was the significant factor producing the electrical potential which in turn produced a blastema from which regeneration of the limb took place. The regeneration was not resulting from the nerves or epidermis alone. The information for growth appears to be transmitted by the negative potential. The DC potential and the current at the injury site appear to give the signal for the negative polarity. The blastema caused differentiated cells to undifferentiate from which state regeneration then takes place. Becker was cited for the Nobel Prize for his work on tissue regeneration but failed to receive it.
Becker concluded that intrinsic electromagnetic energy in the nervous system is the factor that exerts the major controlling influence over growth processes in general. This appeared to be clearly demonstrated in those experiments where by varying the electrical parameters, instructions for growth were changed resulting in unusual growth, or as in the case of mammalian re-generation, in providing those instructions which enabled a healthy new limb to be developed following amputation.
Implications of Electromagnetic Interference to the Human Energy Field The possible effects of power lines, television, hair dryers, microwave ovens, wireless internet use, smart meters, diathermy, and many other common processes and articles in our environment can now be envisaged. For if the electromagnetic field of our body is associated with the carrying of information for growth and re-growth, what happens when a stronger or different field prevails over this basic body field? This area has been extensively researched by Becker and his co-workers to show that if the normal mechanism is suppressed by outside electromagnetic interference, aberrations in cell growth can occur. In relation to this concept the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is an arm of the World Health Organisation has declared cell phones are possibly cancer causing agents. 7
The electromagnetic field associated with the body appears to be the direct expression of the more subtle underlying field often called the etheric pattern. The electromagnetic field provides a link between the etheric body and the nervous system. Bevan Reid, an Australian oncologist took the further step during the 1980’s of examining what he saw as evidence of an etheric field in his laboratory.
Bevan Reid and Etheric Fields
Bevan Reid was a veterinary and medical scientist who held a senior position in the area of oncology at the University of Sydney. Apart from his late interest in the area of the etheric, Reid had nearly one hundred papers published in the field of oncology during his professional life. He found much more difficulty in publishing his work on etheric energy. He did not work directly with the human energy field but his work does have interesting implications for the human state.
Action at a Distance
His work first began with the microscopic observation that sodium chloride crystals in his laboratory had branching patterns and this usually only happened in the presence of protein material. He eventually traced this effect to the laboratory next door each time they washed salicylic acid with alcohol. Reid reasoned that the acid has a lattice-type structure and observed that other lattice-type substances such as ice, rubber, polymer and crystals had the effect in his laboratory of storing and transmitting energy to his experiments.
Another anomaly with crystals involved his finding of a copper sulphate pattern in his sodium chloride crystals three months after the former had been used in the laboratory. It was observed that the presence of copper sulphate occurred at certain times during the day which were later correlated with slight changes in atmospheric pressure giving minute energy ‘fronts’ or tides.
Further work illustrated action at a distance with bacteria. Polystyrene drying during experiments with bacteria some distance away produced an almost identical copy of the bacteria on the plain polystyrene. Amazingly the copy without the physical bacteria even stained gram negative in keeping with the real bacteria! The implications for medicine are immense due to the possibility of the transmission of biological data through a subtle field without any physical contact. By 1982, Reid concluded that some force was coming through space and producing affects related to the crystals and bacteria. 8
Vortices and the Etheric
Polystyrene was used to seal and preserve the earlier experiments in which the copper unexpectedly appeared. By focusing on the polystyrene rather than on the slide material, tiny vortices were found to have formed in the polystyrene as it dried. Reid compared the number of vortices on the slides during experiments made at “quiet” times in the laboratory. The vortices increased from an average of 2 per slide to 20 at those times when a lot of activity was occurring.
Reid became very interested in the significance of the vortex. He saw it as a representation of ether and as carrying information to imprint matter. The whirlpool or vortex appeared from his viewpoint when form is imprinted on matter. Reid viewed the extra number of vortices present during “busy” laboratory experiments as resulting in the release of more energy. He understood the vortices as associated with extra energy in biological systems and possibly as the basis for creation. Perhaps we could consider that the vortices are the basic pattern in the etheric field.
An artificial vortex was created by Reid for the purpose of measuring the physical distance between successive spirals. These were matched with those appearing from space. Values of 1.5 – 3.5 millivolts were found and this is the amount of electrical energy needed to drive a cell. This release of energy underscores the relation visioned between the vortex and manifestation. Reid saw from his experiments a continuous interaction between space and matter. He envisaged the outflow from matter to produce an exact copy of the form and that the inflow from the etheric may carry instructions for the pattern of a growing structure.
Fascinating as his work appeared, the university did not share Reid’s vision and thus funding and staff numbers were reduced. Since he was already more or less at retirement age he bought a beef cattle farm and moved to Queensland in the early 1990’s and he died two years ago. Like most of the individuals reviewed in this article, Reid had the capacity to cross disciplines and present us with some possible explanations of the human energy field. The patterning of matter discovered in his laboratory goes beyond the EM field and has been explored in yet a different way by United Kingdom scientist Rupert Sheldrake.
Rupert Sheldrake and Morphogenetic Fields
Rupert Sheldrake was another scientist very interested in patterns and how they manifest as cells and tissues. He asked where these energy patterns come from and where is the missing link in embryology to explain the relation between our genes and the placement of organs and tissues. Sheldrake is a scientist in the United Kingdom who has apart from his scientific publications, promoted interest within the intelligent public with several books exploring the subject of energy fields, telepathy and most recently, some of the unsubstantiated paradigms of modern science.
The term morphogenetic field is not new but Sheldrake has given a new place to the concept of morphogenesis with his observations and the synthesis he has made of the observed facts. He sees these fields as giving shape and movement to the universe. They include animate and inanimate matter and include many interlocking fields which in themselves are evolving and changing. Morphic resonance occurs when the forms in one place affect the forms in another. 9 Thus like Reid, he saw patterning transferred from one area to another but in a different context.
The fields are not seen by him as physical but enter into the physical, guiding atoms, molecules and cells into the right place. This resolves the gap in embryology as to what factor guides the molecules and cells into particular places in growth and regeneration. These master fields, from Sheldrake’s viewpoint, give the reason why crystals have been observed to form more easily into particular patterns following earlier and similar experiments. (The usual extraordinary explanation is that minute crystals may be present in the hair, beards or clothes of the scientist after the initial experiment, falling into the solute of subsequent experiments thus acting as a seed crystal).
Sheldrake was the first researcher to extend his concept of an energy field underlying the physical form to the behavioural realm. Experiments involving mice indicate that they learn tasks more easily after training of a previous generation and even more extraordinary, observations indicate that control groups also learn the tasks more easily. The existence of fields which conduct information explains such enigmas. Perhaps the most famous example of this kind is that of the putative ‘hundredth monkey’ – who started washing her potato in the sea after monkeys on another island learnt to wash their potatoes. There was no physical contact between the monkeys from one island to another suggesting yet again, transmission of information via a subtle energy field.
Since the first publication of Sheldrake’s work, his experiments have been successfully duplicated including projects involving successive groups of children learning nursery rhymes more quickly in areas separated by thousands of miles. Some of his latest research appears to involve telepathy by people becoming aware of being observed apart from sight, sound or touch, and dogs who know when their owners are coming home. 10 Subtle fields connecting people and/or animals may explain telepathy.
The transmission of data via etheric fields is no new idea to students of the ancient wisdom but is not as yet accepted by mainstream science. Implications in the fields of education and medicine are profound. Apart from the possibility of the etheric field providing the pattern for growth and the need to protect it from adverse influences, the philosophy underlying many natural therapies becomes more obvious. For instance, orthodox medicine may accept more easily homeopathic principles whereby a person can be influenced by infinitesimal doses of remedies wherein no physical molecules are present. Homeopaths generally accept that these potentised remedies penetrate the energy field of the patient. 11 In the area of behaviour, the effect from one individual or group to another has significant implications for education, psychology, and the work force in any community.
Rudolf Steiner and Etheric Formative Forces
The last work to consider is that of Rudolf Steiner. He pioneered work in medicine, agriculture (biodynamic farming) and education (Waldorf schools). Steiner trained doctors in the 1920’s to understand and influence what he called the Etheric Formative Forces. His medical work, known as Anthroposophical medicine, became centred in a Swiss clinic and continues today with doctors from many parts of Europe and beyond taking courses in this type of medical approach. Like Burr, Steiner saw the etheric field underlying organs and tissues as providing the condition for growth, re-growth and healing. 12
Steiner developed a method for charting the etheric field known as capillary dynamolysis, a form of chromatography. Absorbent paper is treated with a metallic salt – e.g. silver nitrate or gold chloride and the substance to be tested forms an individual pattern when applied to the treated paper. The resulting pattern indicates the strength of the etheric field, e.g. in diabetes or nephritis, the pattern almost disappears corresponding to very weak energies in the patient. In contrast, if the etheric field is overly strong, the pattern takes on the appearance of stones. A sample of urine is often used for the test.
There is a typical or generic pattern from the urine of each species – man, cow, dog, sheep etc. Different metallic salts also cause pattern changes within certain parameters. Doctors can do additional training to examine and diagnose cancer from the patterns in a blood spot dropped on to absorbent paper. European medical doctors use this form of diagnosis following training in the Swiss clinic at Arlesheim which specialises in cancer treatment. Again, this form of diagnosis indicates the disease pattern as a distortion in the etheric or Life Field for sometimes years before cancer develops. 12
At the Arlesheim clinic, treatment includes all those influences for good health such as diet, water treatments, artistic expression, a body movement called Eurhythmy, and the specific mistletoe treatment which has been developed by Steiner. The type of mistletoe varies with the cancer and injections are given under the skin every second day. The mistletoe has both an immune enhancing property and is also cytostatic to the tumour. Other therapies pioneered by Steiner include many complex homeopathic formulas which are administered both orally and subcutaneously. His research and treatment covered all acute and chronic diseases and was accompanied by diagnosis of the etheric field of the patient.
It is apparent that there is enough evidence to suggest that human energy fields exist and that they carry information for growth and repair. These fields appear to be at two levels – an electromagnetic field that interfaces with the physical body (Burr and Becker) and an etheric field or magneto-electric field (Reid and Steiner). In addition, the morphological fields of Sheldrake suggest the transmission of information deeper into the area of behaviour. The implications are that distortion or disturbance to such fields whether caused by electromagnetic, nutritional, or genetic factors may contribute to the basic causes of disease.
One general area of agreement amongst the research described is the finding that changes in both the EM and etheric fields precede organic physical changes or pathology sometimes by years. This is probably the most important point of the whole discussion. For an earlier diagnosis in many severe illnesses would save time, lives and money. If there is indeed an energy field underlying the human body that can be measured and used in diagnosis and treatment, the resulting concept of holism and integration in medical practice would surely be seen as the sine qua non of understanding re health and disease.
The existence of a unified energy field may also explain the mechanism for symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, and insomnia experienced by increasing numbers of patients exposed to dangerous levels of microwaves from cell phones, cell phone towers, cordless phones, and ‘wireless’ computer use. Characteristic of all the researchers mentioned is their view of human health and disease as related to the natural world, and in a more negative sense, to man-made technology.
Tiller, W., Science and Human Transformation, California, Paviour, 1997. p.55
Lindlahr, H., The Practice of Nature Cure, Poona, India, Yashwant Press, 28th ed. 1954 Now available as an e book from Many Books
Burr, H.S. Blueprint for Immortality, London, Neville Spearman, 1972, p.48. Now available through Google books.
Rees, M., & Havas, M., Public SOS:The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution, California, Wide Angle Health, 2009, pp. 15-20.
Becker, R., The Body Electric, Quill-William Morrow, New York, 1985, p.39.
Becker, R., Cross Currents, Los Angeles,Jeremy Tarcher, 1990, p.56-62.
International Agency for Research on Cancer, Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans, Lyons, France, May 2011, Vol.102 IARC Monographs.
Reid, B., Exploring the Paranormal, Bridport, Dorset, Prism Press, 1989, Chapter 16.
Sheldrake, R., The Presence of the Past. London., Collins.1988, Chapter 6.
Rupert Sheldrake. Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, New York, Three Rivers Press, Random House 1999.
Jacka, J., Synthesis in Healing, Charlottesville, Hampton Roads, 2003, p.207
Steiner, R., Introducing Anthroposophical Medicine, Hudson, New York, Anthroposophic Press, 1999, Chapter 13.
Husemann, F., & Wolff, O., The Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine Vol.1., New York, Anthroposophic Press, 1982, Chapter 12.
Judy Jacka, BHSc., ND., Grad.Dip.HRE. has been in a consulting practice using natural therapies for 40 years. She was principal of the Southern School of Natural Therapies for 16 years, then Chairperson for 11 years and has published nine books in the area of health and healing. Her latest book is Synthesis in Healing This article is a reprint from the ACNEM journal, Volume 30 No 3 Dec. 2011.