The purpose of the experiment reported below was to explore various correlates or influences of distant healing, the most prominent being the effect of the earth's geomagnetic field (GMF) or its equivalent on both the participants (Ps) and the target system. In order to test these hypotheses in a highly controlled context, distant healing was operationalized as retardation of the hemolysis of red blood cells, following an earlier experiment by Braud (1990).
Distant healing has been defined as "involving acts in which one or more individuals consciously will, intend or ask for the improved well being of another, insofar as such wishes are not primarily mediated and effected by direct physical or social contact with the receiver" (Leder, 2005, p. 924). The current western zeitgeist indicates a shift from the dominant biological paradigm toward alternative or complementary medicine (Krippner & Achterberg, 2000), reflecting the increasing influence of "new age" beliefs and practices (e.g., Farias, Clarridge, & Lalljee, 2005). For example, in a recent American survey 58.6% of respondents reported belief in "psychic healing" (Rice, 2003), and the U.S. Office of Alternative Medicine's budget increased from $2 million in 1992 to $12 million in 1997 (cited in Krippner & Achterberg, 2000). It is therefore of social, medical, and academic interest to address whether psychic healing is real.
Controlled investigations of direct mental interactions with living systems (DMILS) have addressed the effects of intention on a variety of such systems, including enzymes, cell cultures, bacteria, plants, mice, hamsters, and dogs, as well as humans (see Benor, 2001; Radin, 1997).
The notion that conscious intention can influence living systems at a distance is common to many cultures and historical periods (e.g., Leder, 2005). The variants of distant mental healing are spiritual healing, prayer, faith healing, divine healing, and bioenergy therapy (Radin, 1997). Healing methods across cultures include shamanism, intercessory prayer, the deployment of "healing energy" (e.g., Reiki), blessings, invocations, and the use of objects (e.g., in voodoo). Krippner and Achterberg (2000) list 19 variants of anomalous healing events with a variety of subjective components (e.g., state of consciousness, assistance from discarnate spirits, and use of a healing energy).
Findings in this research area have been mixed (for a review of recent studies see Leder, 2005). If there is no psychic effect, placebo effects derived from belief in psychic healing may have their own health benefits (e.g., Lyvers, Barling, & Harding-Clark, 2006).