Crystal healing as a science or pseudoscience: claims and research

Crystal healing by definition

Crystal healing by definition is the process in which people are healed by crystal healing practitioners with the use of crystals often placed directly on the body (McClean, 2013). Crystal healing can be practiced a number of ways and is often guided by "text books" of which have no legitimate sources (McClean, 2013).

Crystal healing by character

Historical Significance

Crystal healing has been practiced throughout history through the use of crystals, amulets, and gemstones (McClean, 2013). The practices associated with crystal healing have been traced by anthropologists within Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations through the use of lapis, luzuli, as well as malachite (minerals) to influence healing and protection (McClean, 2013). The use of crystals have also been associated with the ancient Indian, Greek, and Roman civilizations (McClean, 2013). Crystal use has been referenced in philosophy in the occurrence of philosopher stones and holy grails (McClean, 2013). Crystal occurrences have been used as esthetical and artistic pieces as well held meaning in religion, magic, and mythical practices though not studied with great scientific effort (McClean 2013).

Modern Significance

Crystal use has varied throughout history but currently is appreciated with the most respect by postmodernists and is contested widely by realists (Ishaque, Saleem, & Qidwai, 2009). Studies in a Pakistani hospital (Fig 1.) show that a large number of people are aware of crystals in therapy and that the believers feel that crystals have impacts on personal health, physical strength, superstitious beliefs, spiritual beliefs and change colour relative to one’s health (Ishaque et al., 2009). The significance of this study concludes though there is a large belief in the traits associated with crystal healing, that continued research in either proving or disproving the validity of associated claims is needed (Ishaque et al.). Society has evidently become passive to adopting alternative thought and factual science may no longer be viewed as correct by society. It may be the case that society has adopted the understanding that human knowledge is limited and that it is entirely possible but highly improbable that phenomenon are describable in a reality outside of that testable by scientific studies.

Figure 1. Crystal healing studies in Pakastan (Ishaque, Saleem, & Qidwai, 2009)
Test
Percentage
Aware of crystal use in therapy
63%
Believe crystals impact personal health
39%
Believe crystals impact physical strength
38.5%
Believe crystals impact superstitious beliefs
61.8%
Believe crystals impact spiritual belief
27.5%
Change colour relative ones health
27%

But is crystal healing based on science?

The healing process


The healing process as experienced by McClean (2013) is described as a very loosely structured metaphorical process of associations. Processes dictated by metaphorical processes are uncertain at best and very dependent upon personal feeling. Patrons of whom are being healed with crystals are laid down and have crystals placed in specific locations of their bodies (McClean, 2013). The places in which crystals are placed are said to correspond with chakra centers (Fig 2.) that occur where spiritual energy meets the physical body (McClean, 2013). Many of these chakra center locations associate closely with locations of major glands within the spinal column (McClean, 2013). Due to lack of precise locations and the lack of knowledge of the effects of crystal proximity to organs it cannot be safely justified that any positive or negative effect is evident from a scientific medical stance.
In crystal healing health is defined not as the absence of disease but as the absence of blockages in the body due to negative energy associated with chakras (McClean, 2013).
external image chakras-sing.jpg

Figure 2. Visualization of Chakra Locations. (MindBodyGreen, 2009)
If health cannot be defined absolutely than the claim of crystal healing is of equal lack of definition. A claim in which cannot be tested by most scientific thought is purely unscientific. Crystal therapy is used to remove accumulations of negative energy and crystal type can be chosen through the use of a textbook guide or by personal taste and personal association to the crystal type (McClean, 2013). Continued utilization of undefined terms including negative and positive energies adds uncertainty to the procedure and the uncertainty is increased as well by the lack of standardization in healing processes. McClean states that in common practice the use of too many stones can quickly threaten the credibility and authenticity of the performance of crystal healing. McClean suggests that crystal healing is a performance in which the results are determined largely upon the patrons regard to the validity and openness of crystal healing. Based on the claims made by McClean it is apparent that the process of crystal healing is more of a performance in which the better performers are more capable of accurate healing. This apparent lack of symmetry in the claim that the healer can heal based on performing skills and that the healing is done by the healer with the use of the crystal adds to the lack of validity of crystal healing as a science.

Why crystal healing is a based on pseudoscientific claims

Demarcation criteria

Efficiency vs effectiveness

The described efficacy of crystal healing occurs under ideal situations with precise scientific testing and accounts for chance, bias and complicated factors and cannot be accurately tested as ideal situations are undefined and testing is non quantitative and thus nonscientific. Crystal healing rituals generally attempt to be held effectively and do not hold significant efficacy (McClean, 2013). Effectiveness differs as it occurs under non-ideal situations as in everyday life and is a qualitative description and thus does not appeal to efficacy or being able to be scientifically testable. Agreements made between the participants and crystal healers account for situational differences within the performance of crystal healing and hold little consistency (McClean, 2013). Under the assumptions that healing is defined case to case it can be inferered that any healing is subjective and utterly unscientific as is it significantly biased. McClean (2013) utilizes Levi-Strausse’s shamanistic complex (Fig 3.) and replaces the magical practices of sorcerers with the practices of crystal healers. It is known commonly that magical practices are nonscientific and if McCleans reasoning is accepted than crystal healing is equally nonscientific.

Figure 3. Levi-Strausse’s classic study of the magical practices of sorcerers “shamanistic complex”. (McClean, 2013)
1. Healer must believe in own techniques and abilities
2. The patients belief in the healer
3. Faith and expectations of the group the formation of a group consensus

Evidence within medical sciences

Western medicine has seen the implementation of alternative medicine fields and has accompanied the supplement of crystal healing (McLemore, & Hallengren, 2010). Non-traditional medicines have become much more common and are often utilized in conjunction with scientifically proven medicines (McLemore et al., 2010). Through the addition of non-traditional medicines with the use of alternative medicines it is impossible to differentiate as to if the crystal healing methods have show any scientific validity or if they are purely placebo solutions to biological deficiencies. Crystal healing uses perceived qualities in hopes of improving conditions of the body and mind (McLemore et al., 2010). Cases have been reported with assisted and self medicated alternative crystal healing but have not proven of scientific significance (McLemore et al., 2010). If qualities are perceived and thus indefinable it is evident that the claims associated with these healing practices are equally subjective and lack empirical content and challenge deductive nomological thought as no safe deductions can be made in the theory. Logical positivistic thought also poses problem with crystal healing as it is illogical by all accounts to assume that if no conditions can be met empirically - no validity true or false can be confirmed through sensory or mathematical construct.

Crystal healing and demarcation

Lack of consistency

The lack of constancy in crystal healing methods suggests a lack of validity and renders the practice futile. One such case examined by McLemore et al. (2010) included a man who imbedded a large number of gemstones within his skin correlating to chakra locations. Through consultation with crystal healing practitioners McLemore et al. found that crystal implants were not advised as the strength of the crystal likely could lead to negative effects on the body. Skepticism to the basis of negative effects and subjective claims are other factors that even in medical tests prove unscientific holding little support for the crystal healing theory. McLemore et al. also found that it was common for minerals to be injected into the body (mercury and lead) with the intent of mimicking associated chemical properties (liquid metal and weight) with similar healing properties. Current medical and material sciences have proven the effects of the addition of various mineralogical constituents to the human body and have confirmed or dis-confirmed their effects with biological chemistry and cell biology studies of elemental interaction with organ function.

Discerning demarcation conditions

Modern philosophy would challenge all historical claims of mythical materials with the knowledge of current mineral science and absolute definitions of mineral properties. Thagard would define crystal healing as pseudoscientific on the basis that research into crystal healing is significantly less progressive than alternative sciences like crystallography, mineralogy, and material sciences within molecular chemistry. The obvious implications of post modern appreciations suggest that the social construct of crystal healing is more important than scientific research and the attempt of reaching objectives of rational understanding and validation.

Validation or lack there of by medical science and testable physics

Tiller (2006) suggests that the development of Western medicine can be represented through a series of principle equations (Fig 4.). Equation 1 (Tiller, 2006) suggests that original medical thought was that when an organ is not functioning properly that the cause was due to structural defects due to chemical imbalances. The principal equation holds logic and seems true based on purely intuition. It is probable that the lack of understanding associated with physical materials aided in the adoption of improbable claims. This upholding of obsolete claims conforms to Poppers demarcation for true science in that believers will hold previous beliefs after additional evidence is uncovered.

Figure 4. Equations of the development of Western medicine (Tiller, 2006)
Equation 1: Function ⇌ Structure ⇌ Chemistry
Equation 2: Function ⇌ Structure ⇌ Chemistry ⇌ Electromagnetic Energy Fields
Equation 3: Function ⇌ Structure ⇌ Chemistry ⇌ Electric & Magnetic Energy Fields ⇌ Subtle Energy Fields
Equation 4: Mass ⇌ Energy ⇌ Consciousness
Tiller (2006) also notes that through the use of alternating and direct current and its testing on brain and organ tissue it has been determined that behavioral changes are evident and that there can be enhanced rates of fracture healing as well as electrophysiological responses within human and animal systems. These associations in use with Tiller’s equation two suggest that the development of energy based medicine and the use of magnetic fields prove positive correlation in drive movements of molecules within the body greatly influencing chemical processes. Systems of which are accepted that utilize magnetic field use include ultrasound machines. Tiller notes that though there is a possibility that crystals can produce electrical current it is only observed within crystals undergoing significant stress and are not used in crystal healing practices.
Equation three utilizes subtle energy fields and describes subtle energy fields as all fields not relating to gravity, electromagnetism, weak or strong nuclear forces (Tiller, 2006). Tiller states in the premise of his arguments that subtle forces are very weak and are very difficult to detect and do not require direct physical contact. This study also concludes that weak subtle forces have significant influence on electromagnetic fields and in turn chemical energies (Tiller, 2006). The claims presented by Tiller are improbable at best and are very much subject to precision and accurate problems of testing of falsification.
Human qualities as defined by Tiller (2006) of consciousness, intention, emotion, mind, and spirit, are deemed irrelevant and do not affect an experiment in physical reality but do so in a spiritual reality. Tiller states that in order for these qualities in a spiritual reality hold correlation to a physical state if they can be mathematically correlated with thermodynamic and wave functions. Tiller continues with his conclusions and suggests that there is a direct correlation between spirit and the physical reality but presents claims with minimal certainty. As the effect of a spiritual reality is unknown and subsequently that the effects of changes in a spiritual reality cannot be correlated with physical changes the claims presented by Tiller are highly improbable.
Through these conclusions it is proposed that the body is the carrier in the physical world of the internal spirit and differs fundamentally upon its location within variations of dimension contexts (Tiller, 2006). It appears that through these claims Tiller is attempting to link quantum physics as well as metaphysics with the basis of crystal healing. The claims presented by tiller suggest that an internal spirit and physical body cannot occur simultaneously and can easily be contested as to if both can exist independently. If these claims hold validity it must be so that there is a direct and determinable correlation between the physical human states in support of Tiller.
Conditions in which Tiller (2006) states are influential on the basis of crystal healing must be equally compared within purely vacuum states and that variations in conditions may hinder the accuracy of thermodynamic properties. Due to the inability of testing human interactions within a vacuum it is obvious that the claims made by tiller are illogical and thus nonscientific. Tiller extends his reach within equation four and attempts to correlate the natural law of the conservation with energy and human consciousness. Due to the inability in quantifying this claim and the uncertain definition of consciousness or its link with the physical world these claims hold very little assertion.

Societal problems with crystal healing

Marketability

Barclay (2001) found that crystal (gem and mineral) prices were highly inflated when associated with healing properties. It is not a secret that people will do anything for a quick profit and that the alternative medicine market has been over saturated with hoax filled claims. This marketability greatly reduces the likelihood of validity of scientific seeming claims and increases the uncertainty associated with crystal healing. Barclay associated this profiting with a sly marketing strategy and holds little faith in associated properties publicized with the sale of healing crystals. Barlcay points out that healing crystal are naturally occurring mineral samples with pure crystal lattice structures and that through common interpretation, larger more well formed crystals are deemed to work better. Barclay suggests that the personal beliefs associated with the marketability are enough to warrant their wide sale. It is also noted by Barclay that if a truly scientific entity like pharmaceutical company were to make similar claim to that of crystal healer, the company would face legal obligation to its claims. In brief, it is astounding that the claims and sales made by crystal healing companies are regarded by such a large population with such appeal. It is evident that people hold faith in marketing and are very much subject to believing what they are told in media.

Concluding remarks

In brief it is evident that we as humans have become very passive to accepting claims that hold as much validity as witchcraft or magic and cannot easily distinguish between those that are truly scientific and those that are psudeoscientific. The historical claims made by those who practice and those who accept crystal healing have been very vague and subject to illogical fallacies. Much of the "effect" of the healing crystals are unknown through definition and very much relative to personal opinion and appeal to a deeper philosophical view. Spirituality, religion, superstition and personal health have been noted as factors influence through crystal healing. Of these claims modern medical science is only able to quantify organ processes and in such refutes the validity of all crystal healing claims. Further development of crystal healing claims lead to metaphysical and quantum physic wave functions and the potential validity of the practice is lost in unrelated mathematics. In short, if any acceptable claim were to be found in crystal healing it would be due to a medical study being able to quantify the effects of thought on the physical world. This association of spirit and body is an issue poised for centuries by philosophers and under current thought is unsolvable. Due to a lack of solution in the logical definition of any cause the practice is deemed pseudoscientific..

References


Barclay, A., (2001). Myth & mysteries of crystals. Australasian Science, 22(1), 35.

Ishaque, S., Saleem, T., Qidwai, W., (2009). Knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding gemstone therapeutics in a selected adult population in Pakistan. BMC (BioMed Central) Complementary and Alternative Medicine,9(32), 1-17.

McClean, S., (2013). The role of performance in enhancing the effectiveness of crystal and spiritual healing. Medical Anthropology, 32, 61-74.

McLemore, J., Hallengren, A. L., (2010). X-ray appearance of subcutaneous gemstones as part of alternative/holistic medicine: a case report and review of the literature. Clinical Imaging, 34, 316-18.

Tiller, W. A., (2006). Human psychophysiology, macroscopic information entanglement, and the placebo effect. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 12(10), 1015-1027.

Tiller, W. A., (2004). A personal perspective on energies in future energy medicine. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 10(5), 867-77.