Scientific Qi Exploration 8- Internal & External Fields and Qigong

Scientific Qi Exploration. Part 8.

Internal and External Fields and Qigong

Martin Eisen, Ph.D.

1. Introduction

In physics, a field is defined by a scalar (or number) or vector or tensor associated with each point of 3–dimensional space, specified by say a rectangular xyz-coordinate system, and the fourth dimension of time. For example, the gravitational field is a vector field. Its value at a point in space requires three numbers, the x, and y and z components of the gravitational force acting at that point, which can vary with time. An electrical field is also a vector field since its value at a point in space also requires 3 components for the force of repulsion or attraction on a charged particle at that point. A field may be thought of as extending throughout the whole of space.

In Part 7, different electromagnetic effects occurring in the body were described. The totality of these effects will generate external electromagnetic fields of the body. In addition, there are external electromagnetic fields which can act on the body. Their relation to Qigong practice will be studied.

In addition, an intrinsic field which may determine the shape, method of growth and health has been hypothesized, as explained in Section 2.

2. Life –fields (L-fields)

Harold Saxton Burr was an anatomy professor at Yale University. From his research on the development of the nervous system, Burr realized that little was known about how the shape of animals and other organisms was controlled. Molecular biology can account for the manufacture of parts, but cannot explain how cells, tissues and organs are nearly always organized and assembled into a particular form and shape for a given animal or plant.

Burr hypothesized that the electrical field of an organism is the blueprint for its structure. He called these fields Life-fields or L-fields. In 1932, Burr started an important series of studies of the role of electricity in development and disease (1). During this time most scientists were convinced that energy therapy and “life-force” were nonsense.

Burr showed that the L-field matrix in a frog’s egg outlined the developmental growth of the entire nervous system. He interpreted this as support for his hypothesis that the L-field was the organizing matrix for the body.

By leaving some trees hooked up to his L-field detectors for decades, he found correlations between readings from the trees and phases of the moon, sunspot activity, and thunderstorms.

Burr’s student, Leonard Ravitz, investigated of the effects of the lunar cycle on the human L-field. He concluded that the L-field reaches a peak of activity at the full moon. Ravitz also studied changes in the L-field in relation to changes in a person’s mental and emotional states.

Ravitz stated that “Both emotional activity and stimuli of any sort involve mobilization of electrical energy, as indicated on the galvanometer, hence, both emotions and stimuli evoke the same energy. Emotions can be equated with energy.” Emotional energy is utilized in Chinese medicine and there is a qigong method for healing the emotions (2). Ravitz also discovered that the L-field disappears before death.

Burr’s study of fields for diagnosis is based on the premise that every physiological process in the body also produces electrical changes, as proposed by the physiologist A.P. Mathews in 1903. It also produces changes in the magnetic field around the body. Recent research on this topic was summarized by B. Brewitt in 1996 and 1999 (1).

Burr determined the timing of women’s ovulation by daily measurements of the electrical field between one finger of each hand. Other scientists could not consistently confirm his results, because the detection of the ovulation cycle requires filtering for eliminating interference from other electrical cycles in the body produced by other organs in the body such as the heart and brain. It was not until 1975 that Friedenberg, Reese and Reading patented a circuit that could separate the monthly electrical cycle of the ovary from the rhythms of other bodily organs.

Burr was convinced that diseases would appear in the energy field before any physical symptoms could be detected. He thought that if the disturbed energy field could be restored to normal, the pathology could be prevented. Burr et al. began studying the relation between electrical fields and cancer. They began with mammary tumors in mice and were able to detect large voltage changes in electrodes attached to the chest from 10 days to 2 weeks before the tumors appeared. British researches could not duplicate his results. Brewitt studied some of Burr’s original data in 1996, using statistical methods, and concluded that disease states can be detected early by measuring changes in the electrical conductance of tissues.

Some recent successes in using skin surface electric potentials for detecting breast cancer have been reported by Weiss et al in in 1994 and Cuzick and coworkers in 1998. This non-invasive method is important because it can differentiate between benign and cancerous lumps without surgery. References and further details can be found in Chapter 1 of (1).

Using some of the facts in (3) and L-fields the following is a hypothesis on how energy healing works. Unhealthy tissue does not receive the natural electromagnetic regulatory signals necessary for healing. Energy from the healer, Qigong practice or other means transfers essential information so that the communication channels open and the healing process is initiated. The proper type of tissue is formed under the guidance of the L-field.

3. The Copper Wall Experiments (4, 5)

Healing energy and its electrical correlations was studied by Dr. Elmer Green and colleagues at the Menniger Clinic from 1983 to 1995. A room was constructed consisting of a copper floor, ceiling and walls. The copper panels were insulated from each other. Each subject sat on a chair on a glass base facing a copper wall. Voltmeters were attached to each copper panel to measure he electrical field changes around the subjects. An electrode on the ear of each subject measured any body potential changes, relative to ground, that occurred during meditation. EKG, EEG, finger temperature, skin conductance and respiration were also measured. Sessions were videotaped to rule out spurious electrical readings produced by movement rather than meditation. All of these readings were taken simultaneously and recorded on machinery in an adjacent laboratory. At some sessions a bar magnet, with the north or south pole up, was suspended over the meditator’s crown to change the magnetic properties of the room.

Twenty ordinary subjects, with thirty sessions per subject, were used as a control group. Subjects were told to keep their eyes open and maintain simple awareness, rather than concentrate on a particular object or goal. There were no large or unusual voltages. However, when seven male and several female mind-body practitioners were tested, the results were surprising. During their meditation, body potentials ranged from 4 volts to 221 volts, with these spikes lasting from .5 to 12.5 seconds, whether or not a magnet was used. The magnitude of these surges was 10,000 times lager than EKG voltages and 100,000 times greater than EEG voltages.

Nine of the fourteen mind-body practitioners were nationally known healers, adept at healing that does not require bodily contact. They attempted noncontact healing with volunteers who sat in the same room with the healer and also in another room. Magnets were not used in these experiments. During the healing sessions, the healers generated more electrical surges than during mediation. The voltage surges ranged from 4 to 190 volts.

The next set of experiments looked at the energetic interaction between the healer and a new group of volunteer patients. The same group of six men and three women healers were used, without magnets. Again there were huge electrical surges registered on the bodiews of the healers and to a lesser extent in the copper walls. When the patients were in the same room as the healers, they displayed synchronous potential fluctuations of smaller amplitude than that of the healers. Synchronized electrical activity was not observed when distant healing was attempted and the patient was not in the same room as the healer. Occasionally, distant patients said they felt “healing energy” or saw images corresponding to those visualized by the healers. This implies that healing is correlated with more than electrical energy. According to Qigong theory “Yi ling Qi” or ”Intent guides the Qi” to produce healing. However, other texts state that intent alone can cause healing.

The meaning of these electrical surges is not clear. Dr. W. Tiller, the Stanford University physicist, analyzed the copper wall data from one healer. He found that the charged oscillated between the feet and the crown and haqd its source in the lower abdomen. Some Qigong practitioners believe that healing power is generated from the Lower Dan Tian. Dr. Green, commenting on Tiller’s analysis said that “it is possible that a master healer can generate a charge from any part of his body.” Other Qigong practitioners believe that external Qi can be projected from any part of the body.

4. Auras

Kirilian photograph of a leaf, all torn away except the central stem, still shows the shape of whole leaf

Since antiquity, spiritual adepts have claimed an aura, or a field of subtle, luminous radiation surrounds a person or object (like the halo of religious art) that some mystics are capable of observing.

In Qigong theory, three external Wei Qi fields supposedly surround the body. The first external energy field extends about one or two inches outside the body. It is related to the Lower Dan Tian and serves as a holographic energy template for the body. The second field extends a foot or more outside the body. It is related to the Middle Dan Tian and the emotional energy body. The third field extends a few feet to several hundred yards depending on the person’s spiritual evolution. It is related to the upper Dan Tian and the spiritual energy body. The dominant color of the aura surrounding the Qigong practitioner depends on which of the Dan Tians is dominant. The most powerful healers are considered to be those in which the Upper Dan Tian is dominant and the color will be white. Scientific research has attempted to find devices that will form pictures of the aura.

In 1911, Walter Kilner, M.D. of St. Thomas Hospital in London, saw a human aura, by looking through glass screens stained with dicyanin dye. It appeared to be a glowing mist around the body in three distinct layers: a 1/4 inch densest layer closest to skin; a more vaporous layer, 1 inch wide, streaming perpendicularly from the body, and a delicate exterior luminosity with indefinite contours, about 6 inches wide. Dr. Kilner’s book, The Human Aura, published in New York, 1965, describes how the appearance of the aura differs from person to person, depending on their physical, mental, and emotional states. He developed a system of diagnosis based on the consistent differences in the aura in persons suffering a particular disease.

Some researchers claim that Kirilian photography (KP) gives a picture of the aura. It is named after, Semyon Kirilian, who in 1939 accidentally discovered that if an object on a photographic plate is connected to a source of high voltage, an image would be created on the photographic plate.

Dr. W. Tiller does not believe that aura is seen and the photograph has a physical explanation (6, 7). When a Kirlian photo is taken, the object is placed either on a metal electrode or between two parallel metal plate capacitors that are separated by a small distance from a photographic film plate. An electrical current passed through the electrode or the capacitors produces a separation of charge, freeing valence electrons from the object and creating a small electric field that ionizes the molecules in the air around the object. Once this electric field is large enough, electrical breakdown of the air occurs and conducting paths in the visible light range can appear as the electrons recombine with the ionized molecules, emitting photons in the process. Different colors are generated based on the elemental composition of the object, since each element in the periodic table gives off it own unique color spectra. This is called a corona discharge by physicists and is not emanations of the supposed human aura. In addition to living material, inanimate objects such as coins will also produce Kirlian photographs.

In the 1970’s, Dr. Thelma Moss did extensive research in Kirlian photography when she led the UCLA parapsychology laboratory. One experiment designed to show the presence of energy fields generated by living entities involved taking Kirlian contact photographs of a picked leaf at set periods. Its gradual withering corresponded to a decline in the strength of the aura. However it may simply be that the leaf loses moisture and becomes less electrically conductive, causing a gradual weakening of the electric field at the drier edges of the leaf.

In another experiment, a section of a leaf was torn away after the first photograph. A faint image of the missing section remained after a second photograph was taken. The Archives of American Art Journal of the Smithsonian Institute published a leading article with reproductions of images of this phenomenon. However, this effect might have beeen due to contamination of the glass plates, which were reused for both the “before” and “after” photographs. The effect was not reproduced in later better, controlled experiments.

Dr. Moss correlated fingertip coronas with emotional states. Healthy subjects exhibit a blue-white corona with a deep blue band-from one sixteenth to more than a quarter of an inch wide, just beyond the boundary of the fingertip. States of relaxation lead to a blue-white corona. In states of arousal, tension, anxiety, or excitement, a red blotch consistently appears superimposed on the fingerprint. Other observations were that meditators had brighter and wider coronas and that acupuncture increased the corona width and brightness, depending on the specific point being treated.

Dr. Konstantin Korotkov of the St. Petersburg State Technical University of Informational Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, has devised a GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) instrument based on the Kirlian Effect, for direct, real-time viewing of the human energy field (aura). The GDV uses glass electrodes to create a pulsed electrical field excitation (called “perturbation technique”) to stimulate objects so that they shine millions of times more intensely than normal. Sophisticated technology is used to capture the tiny pulses of emitted photons and measure their electro-photonic glow.

This technology claims to capture, by a special camera, the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy emanating to and from an individual, plants, liquids, powders, inanimate objects and translate this into a computerized model.

The Korotkov method is used in some hospitals and athletic training programs in Russia and elsewhere as preventative measurements for detecting stress.

Another method for studying auras is called Aura photography. It is completely different from Kirilian photography. In aura photography a colorful image is produced of a person’s face and upper torso by interpreting galvanic skin responses and adding color to the photograph using a printer. The images made with an Aura camera do not result from coronal discharge. In aura photography, no high voltage is involved as with the Kirlian technique, and no direct contact with the film is made.

In the late 1980’s, Harry Oldfield (8) developed a scanner which he thought would provided a real time, moving image of the energy field. His system became known as Polycontrast Interference Photography (PIP). He speculated that ambient (surrounding) light would be interfered with by the energy field both when the incident ray traveled towards the object and when the reflected ray bounced off the object.

To see the body’s energy field with PIP, ideally the person is in a room with full spectrum lighting at a controlled output, standing against a white backdrop. The picture is taken with a digital video camera. A lead from the camera acts connects it to a computer. The sophisticated program analyzes the different light intensities being reflected from the person or object being scanned. The computer screen then displays the end project seen. Harry Oldfield believes that his PIP can see the energy field from and around the body in much the same way as people with gifts of vision can. His belief is based on the fact that some clairvoyants and mystics with their gifts helped him develop some of the filters in PIP which simulate what they see, including the colors.

The photographs cannot be used automatically. Experience and training is required to interpret them. Certain colors indicate illnesses. When a healer projects energy the colors indicating illness can be seen to change to colors indicating health.

Tim Duerden’s paper (9) explores the claims of aura producing devices. It argues that the images produced can be explained using concepts from the physical sciences. It is suggested that techniques such as KP, GDV or PIP currently offer insufficient reliable research evidence concerning their use as diagnostic or imaging alternatives. Consequently their clinical use is debatable. Kirlian photography and its derivatives may however be useful as a research tool by providing visual records of complex bodily responses to experimental situations, such as, responses to physiological or psychological stressors.

Some medical Qigong doctors base their diagnosis and treatment on the aura’s appearance and colors (10). Aura colors and patterns constantly change depending on the patient’s physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and physical health.

A simple test for the ability to see auras, the “Doorway Test”, appears in (11). A subject with a large aura is behind a wall so that he cannot be seen by the aura reader. He approaches the doorway and stands so that his shoulders are at the edge of the doorway and his body is not visible. The reader attempts to detect the subject’s presence by his aura, which will protrude into the doorway. Some people, who claimed to see auras, were correct in detecting peoples’ presence, only a small number of times, as if they were guessing.

Some skeptics believe that there is no aura. Rather, the mystic suffers from synaethesia, especially if the ability is inborn. Synaesthesia is a condition found in 1 in 2000 people in which stimulation of one sense produces a response in one or more of the other senses. For example, people with synaesthesia may experience colors with tastes or smells with sounds. It is thought to originate in the brain.  Some scientists believe it might be caused by a cross-wiring in the brain, for example, between centers involved in emotional processing and smell perception.  Synaesthesia is known to run in families.

5. Schumann Resonance

Effects of external Qi fields of the earth, sun, moon and stars and time varying Qi effects were discussed in previous articles on Scientific Exploration of Qi, Parts 4, 5(a) and 5(b) which appeared in Qi Dao from Nov./Dec., 2008 to March/April 2009.

The research of Wever et al 1968 at the Max Planck Institute is cited in (1). They monitored hundreds of subjects over many years that lived in two underground rooms shielded from external influences of light, temperature, sound, pressure and so on. One room was also electromagnetically shielded so that the effects of geomagnetic rhythms were reduced by 99%.

All of the subjects developed longer, irregular, chaotic, or desynchronized physiological rhythms. Those in the magnetically shielded room suffered worst. This result has been verified by more modern researchers. Artificial electric and magnetic were pulsed into the shielded room. Only the 10 Hz electric field restored normal patterns to biorhythm measurements.

Brain waves exhibit time variations in frequency. The system controlling this variation is called the thalamic rhythm generator or pacemaker. During “free-run” periods, when the brain waves are not paced by the thalamus, the brain’s field can be entrained by external electromagnetic rhythms (1). One of the most influential rhythms is caused by Schumann resonance, a phenomenon discovered by W. O. Schumann, an atmospheric physicist, in 1952. Schuman signals can resemble alpha brainwaves.

Schumann resonance is caused by lightning strikes. There are about 200 lightning strikes per second worldwide. Lightning pumps energy into the earth-ionosphere space and causes it to vibrate or resonate creating standing electromagnetic waves that are reflected from the ionosphere, back to earth, back to the ionosphere, and so on. As electromagnetic waves, Schumann resonance can be detected as electric or magnetic micropulsations. Schumann pulses are easier to detect in fair weather and bursts occur more often during the day than at night.

The average frequency of this resonance is 7-10 Hz. Rhythms from earth and space can alter the properties and height of the ionosphere and so alter the Schumann frequency. For example, if the height of the ionosphere increases the cavity gets bigger and the resonant frequency drops. Thus, the Schumann frequency ranges from 1-40 Hz. The strength and frequency of the signal depend on global lightning activity, local weather conditions, and the conductivity of the earth’s surface at the observation point. Other confounding factors are solar and lunar position, planetary positions, sunspots, solar storms, and so on (1).

The following might be a plausible explanation for the biomagnetic field projected from a therapist’s hands. Schumann resonances cause geomagnetic pulsations which are detected by the pineal and magnetite-type tissue in the brain. During the “free-run” period the Schumann resonance can serve as the pacemaker, especially if the person is meditating, since the Schumann signal is thousands of times stronger than brainwaves. The electrical signals from the brain are conducted through the body by the perineural and vascular systems. The projected biomagnetic signal can be at least one thousand times stronger than brainwaves. Alternatively, the body might simply act as an antenna for the Schumann micropulsations.

Note that the projected frequencies are those that are useful for “jump-starting” tissue repair, as indicated in Table 2 in (3).

In 1969, Robert C. Beck started a decade of study on the brain wave activity of healers from many different cultures. Though having diverse beliefs and training methods, all healers EEG brain wave activity averaged about 7-8 Hz, while they were in their healing state. This might be due to the entrainment of their brain by the Schumann resonances. Also many healers are not as effective as usual on certain days and also after treating many patients. The major factor to account for these observations might not be depletion of their Qi, but the weakening of the strength of the Schumann resonance.


1. Oschman, J. L. Energy Medicine. Churchill Livingstone 2000.

2. Cohen, K. S. The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. Ballantine Books, New York, 1999.

3. Eisen, M. Scientific exploration of Qi. Part 7:  Effects of Qigong practice on the body. Qi Dao, May/June, 2009.

4. Green, E. E. et al. Anomalous electrostatic phenomena in exceptional subjects, Subtle Energies 2:3, pp 69-94, 1991.

5. Green, E. E. et al. Gender differences in a magnetic field, Subtle Energies 3:2, pp 65-103, 1992.

6. Tiller, W. A. Are psychoenergetic pictures possible? New Scientist 62(895), April 25. pp. 160 – 163, 1974.

7. Boyers, D. G., & Tiller, W. A. Corona discharge photography. Journal of Applied Physics 44(7), July. pp. 3102 – 3112, 1973.

8. Solomon, J. and G. Harry Oldfield’s Invisible Universe, Campion Books, 2003.

9. Tim Duerden, T. An aura of confusion Part 2: the aided eye—‘imaging the aura?’, Complementary Therapies in Nusing and Midwifery, Vol. 10, (2), pp 116-123, 2004.

10. Johnson, J.A. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy. Int. Institute of Medical Qigong, Pacific Grove, Ca, 2000.

11. Tart, C. T. Concerning the scientific study of the human auras, J. of the Soc. for Psychical Research, 46, No. 751, pp 1-21, 1972.

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About Martin Eisen

By profession, Dr. Eisen was a university Professor specializing in constructing mathematical models such as those in cancer chemotherapy and epilepsy. He has studied and taught Yoga, Judo, and Aikido. Dr. Eisen was the founder and chief-instructor of the Shotokan Karate Clubs at Carnegie-Mellon and Dusquene Universities and the University of Pittsburgh. He helped teach Yoga in Graterford prison. His curiousity about the relation of Qi to healing and martial arts led him to study TCM, Tai Chi and Praying Mantis Kung Fu. He was initiated as a Disciple of Master Gin Foon Mark. Dr. Eisen now teaches (at his Kwoon and by webcam), writes and researches Praying Mantis, Qigong and Yang Tai Chi - see
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