An Intro to Crystal Healing: Two Perspectives

 

When you walk into a particular type of spiritual atmosphere, the question "What is crystal healing? Is it real?" is replaced with the question, "What stone would you use for what problem?" Crystal healing itself is just a given. When I started working a retail environment where I suddenly had to learn to identify numerous crystals and their properties for healing, I was somewhat caught between enthusiasm for geologic specimens, a renewed spiritual practice, utilizing crystals in meditation and altar work, and a slightly more cynical attitude (not entirely exclusive to me) about some New Age trends that almost didn't want to ask what the environmental impact of this sales trend may be (see "Tools for Healing? 'Buying' into Gemstones?" for more on that). The result was that I took crystal healing seriously but may have been also a little too amused by snarky humor such as that of the Baroness Von Sketch:

Crystal healing, like acupuncture and astrology, is rooted in ancient beliefs. Practitioners of contemporary approaches frequently use crystals to assist with chakra balancing—vibrational energy centers along the spine—and in combination with reiki. Individuals often use gemstones in personal meditation practices or they are worn/carried on the body as protective amulets. 

 

But many skeptics assert they act only as placebos, a view supported by scientific academic studies. Even among practitioners of crystal healing there is disagreement. Some crystal healers acknowledge a placebo effect and don't claim that stones would have any intrinsic powers on their own. Others place this conversation in a context of ancient & indigenous metaphysical philosophy that looks at consciousness as being present everywhere—through all things. See the following two videos below (neither is affiliated with this website) are representative of conflicting and controversial perspectives encountered in gemstone culture. The video on the left (Insider) demonstrates the sort of reaction that is typical of mainstream attitudes wanting to believe in a discovery of something “magical” and auspiciously powerful that can transform them in some hoped-for way or another—but also looking to science to validate or explain away the reaction and attempts to disguise the disappointment and convince us that a placebo effect is still sort of like magic anyway). The second video on the left is the perspective of someone who has traced stone therapy back to its ancient traditions, studied it extensively, and integrated both the language and knowledge into her own identity—a professional in the field offering teaching.

 

 

 

That's not necessarily to say that if many of these researchers, teachers, and practitioners were to sit down to a discussion, they couldn't find wording that they agreed on. Stuart McClean, a researcher of the sociocultural context of complementary health practices in the UK, refrains from using the term ‘placebo’ in his discussion of the effectiveness of crystal spiritual healing, instead focusing on the performative aspect of intuitive healing approaches. His exploration is based on Levi-Strauss’s study of the “efficacy” of “magical practice” or the shamanistic complex which “highlighted first the importance of the healer’s belief in his or her own techniques or ability, and second, the importance of the patient’s belief in the healer’s power. Third, crucial to this process, Levi-Strauss emphasized the faith and expectation of the group (i.e. the audience)” (62). The explanation of performativity allows us to set aside the question of an intrinsic healing ability of crystals, and to reclaim some of the suspended belief about how crystals could assist us to reach areas of our psyches that can help us through various conditions and ailments, but there are still those who believe that particular stones carry an intrinsic predisposition to assist us with particular types of challenges.

In November of 2018, I asked crystal healing author Nicholas Pearson his thoughts on the placebo explanation. He responded:

"I don’t discredit that the placebo effect is probably a large component of why crystals work. However, I’d also point out that there are drugs in use today by the medical field that are only as effective as placebos, too. We don’t currently understand the profundity of consciousness and how it affects not only our health and well-being, but how it can influence the world around us at large. If we look at crystal healing through the lens of metaphor, rocks and minerals become symbols that lead our consciousness back toward balance. As we influence our psyche, that in turn affects our biology. While I believe that there are viable models that explain how crystals can heal, no systematic experiment has been carried out to-date that proves or disproves crystal healing"  (to read my full interview with Nicholas, click here).

 

Pearson also provided me with recommendations for further reading, saying, "I would also point these skeptics toward the few studies that have been published about crystal healing, including one by C. Norman Shealy (MD and PhD), which he describes in detail in his book Miracles Do Happen. Gary E. Schwartz also discusses crystals in his book The Energy Healing Experiments. Finally, the work of solid-state chemist and materials scientist Don Robins provides evidence for psychic and spiritual phenomena related to rock and crystal, and he explores the mechanisms by which they take place. Former scientist with IBM Marcel Vogel, who garnered over 100 patents in his 27 years with the company, also retired to explore the world of crystal healing, and he developed practices that used science-driven, evidence-based models of healing. In time, I think we will see studies that provide conclusive evidence of the efficacy of crystal healing in peer-reviewed journals."

The New Yorker put together an informative video touching on each of the above descriptions exploring the popularity of crystal healing that *almost* entirely avoids the term "placebo":

 

Contemporary spiritual teachers address this question directly or indirectly or through an assumption that crystal healing is "real" (If you are experiencing _________, [a particular stone] can help you__________).

 

Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment is one of the teachers who doesn't address gemstone healing directly (as far as I'm aware at the publication of this article) but whose discussions can be applied. He is among several contemporary spirituality speakers who extensively talks about science and spirituality from a perspective of non-conflict to which both scientists and traditional religious leaders often object, claiming that it is either pseudoscience or some sort of heresy, but which is nonetheless achieving popularity in the mainstream. He often emphases that our reality is constantly changing through the new discoveries of science that were previously unmeasurable. Further, he discusses the mentality of thinking that we need all sorts of things in order to be "okay."

 

Sadhguru  is among those who have been asked about this topic directly, and in a lengthy response in which he used "full moon days" as an analogy for outside influences — amplifying the qualities that are already there, he concludes that wearing a gemstone can have an effect "if you allow it," and this is because we have the ability to shape our own lives.  See his full explanation below:

 

 

 

 

It's not my purpose to try to influence your beliefs or skepticism about crystal healing as such — my motivation for writing stems from my realization that I'm among those who can't really accept gemstones as sources of healing without considerable attention to how they are sourced themselves, and the impact of that process on social and environmental systems.

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Points of Healing, Points of Mine is a series of articles discussing the interweavings of conversations of crystal therapy, ethical gemstone jewelry, alternative healing, science & conservation, and eco-consumerism. Initially published as its own site in 2018 as the final project of ENGL 513, Science, Environmental, and Medical Writing at the University of New Mexico, it has now been integrated into a section of Re-Sourced (https://www.projectresourced.org/).