James Oschman, in his book Energy Medicine: the Scientific Basis, notes that the earliest known use of electricity in medicine was around 2750 B.C.E., when electric eels were used to shock ill people back into health. It was the Greek Thales who discovered static electricity around 400 B.C.E. The use of magnets in healing may be even older than electrical treatments. The ancient Egyptians and Chinese used magnetite (also known as lodestone) to heal the sick. In 1773 Anton Messer tried magnets to heal his patients; scientists of his day ridiculed his claims. The nineteenth century witnessed an explosion of electrical healing devices.
In the nineteenth century popular awareness of electricity was new. Like the computer in the late twentieth century, there was a fascination with this latest technology. Many people thought electricity could solve or explain most problems. Doctors and sci-entists experimented with el-ectric fields and applied to them to the human con-dition. Oschman says that by 1884, ten thousand Amer-ican physicians were using electricity daily in their practice. Intriguing discoveries were made, but this was the time of unregulated medicine.
Fraud was commonplace and, as with any new fad, there were many entrepreneurs eager to cash in on the public’s interest. Serious science was swamped by bogus claims of miraculous cures. More people were harmed than cured by this unregulated, Wild West form of medicine.
Those who were cured were believed to be exhibiting the common placebo effect. As one skeptical Web page  cites,
“The illusion of efficacy is also due to the power of suggestion. Belief in a particular remedy can help reduce pain and stress. This in turn enhances the body’s own healing capabilities: the well-known “placebo effect.” Unfortunately, such treatments may only mask the body’s warning, and false hope can have dire consequences.”
Serious  medical researchers and scientists became more and more alarmed at these bogus claims and the consequences.
In the early twentieth century, medicine became regulated and restricted by governments. No longer could anyone claim to be a healer. No longer were all modalities accepted. The medical schools adopted a well-defined curriculum, and in this curriculum there was no room for the practice of electromagnetic healing. Research followed only two paths: research on the nervous system and the electrical communication made possible by the nerves, and research on the chemical system and the drugs that affected the chemical functions in the body.
Economics is a fact of life. When an opportunity arises to earn money, people take advantage of that opportunity. The emphasis on the chemical model of the body created a big economic opportunity. One of the greatest successes of modern medicine is in this field of inquiry. The twentieth century saw huge advances in our understanding of how the body works chemically. Understanding the chemical interactions at the cellular level allowed new drugs to be discovered or invented, drugs that prevented many diseases. Antibiotics, anti-depressants, vaccinations, and many more substances became the target of research because they were so good at fixing problems. Drug companies naturally funded even more research in these areas. It was not long before virtually all the research conducted in medicine was chemical in nature. Mainly governments or private sources funded research into the nervous system. Research into alternative modalities was virtually nonexistent.
Paradigms are established when the majority believe their current understanding and practice is the only correct way. Once established, paradigms are very hard to change. Through the decades of working successfully with the chemical models of the body, it became accepted that this was the only really viable approach to medicine. A good doctor had to understand the nature of an illness, look up the chemical cause of the problem, and apply a chemical solution to the problem. Most of the time, this worked. When it didn’t work, it wasn’t a fault of the paradigm; it was because we hadn’t learned enough about the model yet. More research was needed.
Not all medical problems are solved by the current medical paradigm. People not successfully cured by Western medicine found themselves going in circles, visiting one doctor after another but since all doctors were working within the same paradigm, it is not surprising that no relief was obtained. If one doctor failed, it was highly likely that all doctors would fail. These patients began to seek solutions through different paradigms. The alternative modalities they tried are still looked at with ill-disguised contempt by many Western doctors, but not all. A few scientists, doctors, and researchers began to ask a bold question: what if the Eastern modalities actually did work and if they did work, how could they work? Their answers are exciting.
The economic returns from this line of inquiry are not large, especially compared to the returns from the chemical models of medicine. We should not expect large financial support from the corporate world for research into alternative models, because there are no large scale returns on these kinds of investments. Instead, we will have to rely upon private or government investment to broaden our understanding of these alternative models of medicine.
The good news in all this is interest has resurfaced in models of communication within the body that are not just chemical or electrical in nature. Though this research is very small compared to the well-funded chemical models, which have done some remarkable things for humanity, alternative research is growing. The findings are fascinating. What is becoming clear is – the Eastern models of prana/nadis and Chi/meridians are not so subjective and fanciful as once thought. There are actual measurable, physical observations supporting these theories. This is where our journey takes us next.
- — The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal at www.csicop.org.
- — Who defined “serious” science and medical practices is open for debate.