Dr. Elmer Green is the former Director of the Voluntary Controls project at the Menninger Institute in Topeka, Kansas. He and his wife Alyce are pioneers in the field of biofeedback training, authoring the classic book "Beyond Biofeedback." His most recent project, "The Copper Wall," explores possible electromagnetic coorelates of the human energy field.
DiCarlo: Was there any particular event in your life that served as a trigger, and caused you to look beyond the party line of the traditional scientific paradigm?
Green: No, there was nothing in my life that was like that, and the reason is, I was aware of the essence of this emerging paradigm from the time I was young. There never was a time I wasn't aware that there was a collective unconscious. I knew about this from the time I was about three years old. Since I knew about it, I took it for granted.
When I first started reading Carl Jung, I thought, "Wow, this guy really knows something. He's writing about things that I know about, so I know he's right." I thought that was pretty funny when I found out later who he was, I mean, the creator of the idea of the collective unconscious. When I first read him as a kid, I just thought, "Well, yes he's right. He knows something." I already knew about it from an experiential point of view. But I had never known that anybody had written about it.
So there was no event that I know of in my case, but you are right, for a lot of people, it's sort of like, something happens. Sometimes it might be the death of a friend, or a family member that all of a sudden triggers them into the awareness of a larger reality.
DiCarlo: Over the past several years you have spent your time on a project you have named "The Copper Wall Experiment." I have to admit, that sounds very intriguing. Please explain.
Green: When I was a student in the department of physics at the University of Minnesota, I had read about the use of a copper wall that meditators would sit in front of to induce deeper meditative states in the book called "The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnet. " It occurred to me, if people were meditating in a really potent way, they may very well be generating electrical voltages in their body. Over many years, the idea stuck in my mind, until about ten years ago, when we finally had the chance to test it. So we set up a copper wall which people sit in front of, with their body facing true north. They are isolated from ground by glass blocks. They have a bar magnet over their heads. After doing all this set-up work, we began to measure the voltages that developed on the walls as a way of finding out whether or not their body changed voltage. I didn't want to put wires directly on the body for a number of technical reasons. If you change the voltage of an electrical object in a room, it has an effect on others things too. So I just wired up the wall to see what was happening to the human body.
DiCarlo: How do you know that these voltages being measured were not attributable to normal electrical fluctuations of the body that have been commonly observed?
Green: In the first place, the person is sitting alone in the room, isolated from ground. The normal body voltages that are generated in a situation like that are usually in the milli-volt range, which is very small. Also, you would expect a person's body voltage to drift by as much as two volts from a buildup of static electricity. So you expect some fluctuation.
But the voltages that we were getting connected with a healing were shooting up and then returning to baseline by as much as 200 volts on occasion. The healer voltages are not normal body voltages. They are at least 1,000 times bigger. So that's the problem. We asked ourselves, "In the first place, where did all the voltage come from? In the second place, where did it go to when it disappeared?" Generally, the pulses of electricity in the body of the healers lasted only 4 or 5 seconds. So a huge voltage would appear then disappear. I thought that was quite fascinating.
DiCarlo: Were these surges in electrostatic charges accompanied by an intention to heal?
Green: Generally speaking, yes, the healers were trying to heal, although over a period of years, they had generated so much of this kind of phenomenon with their bodies, that even when they weren't trying to heal people-if for example they were just meditating in the room- we got electrical pulses from their bodies.
In 6 meditations sessions, one of the healers produced only one pulse of voltage. But in the first of the healing sessions, there were 15 to 20 pulses generated, and that was connected with the intention to heal. And that was generally true, although one of the healers was bursting with energy to such a degree that this pulsing phenomenon occurred even in the meditation sessions.
DiCarlo: Fascinating! Well, what sort of conclusion have you drawn from these experiments, recognizing that the research is not yet complete?
Green: Well, in the first place, I have accepted that healing at a distance is a fact. I think that the religions of all times which have talked about this are not wrong. Of course, these anecdotal types of accounts do not constitute scientific evidence. But I think that there has been enough research now regarding the effects of prayer at a distance to indicate that it really is happening. So I accept that. That's the first point.
Second point is, that whatever the energy is that does the healing, one of its correlates is electrical phenomena. I am not saying that electricity is the cause of the healing. If that were the case you could do it with a battery.
DiCarlo: So would you say your work has focused upon understanding the mechanisms involved in healing?
Green: Yes, that's right. But it's taking for granted that something is happening. We are not trying to find out if healings are taking place. We're just trying to find out what's going on.
DiCarlo: Well, if something is happening, I am wondering if the mechanism involved might prove to be subtle energy.....But first, what is subtle energy?
Green: Subtle energy is something that hasn't been detected in any scientific way except by its effects. If you look at all the careful, clean studies on intercessory prayer on heart patients in a cardiac unit in which the people they were praying for were a block away for example, you find that sure enough, the prayer produced a healing effect. So, we assumed that something was happening, but not in the normal, scientific sense of electromagnetic energies. It was something else. Since it can't be defined or directly detected except by its effects, it got the name of subtle. Chi is a good example of subtle energy. Subtle energy is that which must exist in order to produce the effects it is producing. I can't imagine healing taking place without any energies at all being involved. That's the first point.
The second point is, if you talk to healers, or you talk to Qi Gong people, or you talk to people who are talented in their ability to affect physical objects using their minds, they always talk as if they are handling some kind of energy. If you ask them questions about it, they will say, "Well, it's sort of like electricity." So I am assuming-and this is part of the metaphysical tradition too-that energy exists at four different levels, the crudest of which is the one we call electrons. I am assuming that instrumentation will be developed for directly detecting and photographing this stuff. It's very similar to the development of electricity. In the early days, researchers noticed frog legs twitching on a wire rack when lightening struck nearby. But they didn't know anything about electricity or electrical induction or magnetic induction. They simply assumed there was a connection of some kind.
So in those days, you could say that electricity was subtle energy since it could not be measured.
DiCarlo: That's amazing. So you feel that we will be some day be able to measure this energy directly?
Green: I think it's pretty inevitable that finally we will be able to develop instrumentation that will measure it in the same way that we now measure electricity.
DiCarlo: So, what would be the implications of your work to the average individual, if these subtle energies associated with the body, are scientifically validated?
Green: The importance of this is that-and I believe this will happen in the next century-medical teams will have healers as part of the team. On occasion, medical people can't keep a patient alive long enough during surgery to complete their work. Healers would be very useful in helping maintain health.
And not only that, I am assuming that in the future, medical teams will include what we would call an intuitive or a psychic diagnostician. Somebody like Caroline Myss who works with Norman Shealy. And not only will we have psychic diagnosticians, but we will have healers who will supply energy not only to heal, but to keep the body going. I would imagine that medical people, as is the case nowadays, would still be in charge.
DiCarlo: But there would be a partnership?
Green: There would be a partnership, yes. Now a lot of people who are sick don't go to a medical doctor, they go to a healer who is an alternative practitioner. And there are thousands of people out there who call themselves healing practitioners. But they are not accepted scientifically. But I feel that eventually they will come to a place where they will be recognized and their services made use of.
DiCarlo: Are you personally able to sense subtle energy?
Green: To tell you the truth, I have never attempted to document that. But my feeling is that everybody on the whole planet who has a physical body, has a body of subtle energy also. I accept the yogic theory that the physical body is the representation of an energy structure. If we knew all about it, we would call it a subtle energy structure.
DiCarlo: Do you think this energy field represents the ultimate link between mind and body?
Green: Sure. I believe that is actually how biofeedback works. I think that's how any action of the physical body works. Say you want to move your hand. First you think of it. But the question is, "How does your intention move your hand?" After you have thought of it, how does that thought make your hand move?" Since the nerves that operate the hand are up somewhere in the cortex of the brain. There is some sort of intentionality that causes those nerves to fire. The way the yogis would explain it, is that the mind and the body aren't the same thing; that the interface between the mind and the body is the subtle energy domain." Anytime you think of anything, the subtle energies are activated and of course that activates the neurology.
It's like this: Say you have somebody working at a computer. They have an idea and they want to write something, so they tap on some keys and words appear on the monitor. But the mechanism in between involves what they intend to do. There are quite a few intermediary steps before the words can be seen. In an analogous way, our intentionality activates the subtle energies of our body, which some of the Russian experimenters by the way, are calling the bio-plasma body. The subtle energy body then influences the neurology which fire and allow your fingers to hit the appropriate letters on the key board.
Actually, becoming an Olympic athlete consists of training the neurology, and it is always trained through intention. All the athletes I have talked train themselves through intention. Now the yogis would understand that perfectly. They would say that it's the training of the energies that manipulate the physical body.
DiCarlo: One of the great characteristics of the emerging world view is that the domain of the spirit and soul is now being acknowledged and embraced. In many fields, people are discussing the "reality" of this aspect of our being. According to yogic tradition, what is the nature of the soul?
Green: From the yogic perspective, it's another level of energy. Aurobindo, the great Indian philosopher who died around 1950, put in very clearly when he said, "The highest spiritual levels that we know of our energy states also." The physical body is manipulated, generally speaking, by the emotions. Emotions have an effect on the physical body. But he said, emotions themselves are an energy state in a subtle energy domain, and they are focused on the body. Ideas and mind are also an energy state. And above that, there are various spiritual levels. In the Tibetan system, it's called the void and according to the Tibetan Teacher W. Y. Evans West, there are 28 different levels in the void. And each one of those levels according to Aurobindo, is an energy state-wheels within wheels within wheels.