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Hey, physicists: do chakras really exist?

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This is very enjoyable: Big Bang Theory types at Physics Forums mull over the possibility of chakras existing. Metaphysical violence ensues.


“Most of us can admit that without mythology or placebo effect that some sort of ‘energy’ builds up in the groin.”

“This is a Physics forum. Energy is the capability to do work. Are you saying that the ‘energy’ from your genitals can lift a rock?”

“Chakras are special points on the body through which money can be extracted from Californians.”

“Yoga can supposedly increase what new agers call ‘energy’, a transcendental entity not known by physics.”

“Acupuncture meridians and ‘chi’ have been identified as very real DC currents that naturally occur in the body (and help direct healing through normal physiological processes, for example). Chakras may correspond to similar sorts of cellular activity.”

“The stumbling block is language… metaphorical language that is interpreted as being the objective truth. What is described as a colored wheel of spritual energy is a metaphorical way of describing the hormonal electro-chemical reactions of nervous tissue.”

“I decided one day to experiment with ‘awakening the chakras’ in a secluded field next to a church. Whatever I did (can’t fully remember) caused a dramatic sensation within my naval area. What I do remember is that the sensation kept growing and eventually felt so powerful that I got scared and stopped, even though I would describe it as ‘pleasant’ … My ‘gut’ feeling is that I am simply somehow activating either my nervous system, a hormone dump, or both. As opposed to some actual paranormal phenomenon.”

“At the very least, this will get you arrested. More likely, you will go blind. But doing it near a church is a free ticket to hell.”

“I’m amazed that whoever invented these chakras forgot about the asshole. I mean really, you lose about an atomic bomb worth of energy through there, every day.”

“In traditional Chinese medicine they believe while exercising you must keep the rectum contracted to prevent the leakage of vital force.”

Blubbing in a towelly nook

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‘Pranic healing and massage’ may sound as though it involves a forefinger and the perineum, but in actual fact it’s about removing energy blockages in the whole body and resolving deep-rooted emotional issues.

Regular readers will be aware of my pathological fear of New Age men, but Greg (name changed!) comes recommended by my two work chums, Sheridan and Gemima (real names!), who always come into the office next day looking flushed and fanning themselves. I can see why when Greg opens the door; he’s like Hollywood’s idea of a New Age man, if the New Age man was in Oceans 11.

We have a bit of a chat about what to expect. When a practitioner says: “You might find you cry, but that’s okay,” which they invariably do, I take it with a pinch of salt. It always reminds me of my first boyfriend waggling two fingers at me and announcing his unfailing ability to satisfy a woman thusly. If you don’t cry or orgasm gratefully, are you the failure?

I hop up onto a massage table in Greg’s house in just my undies and lie on my back under a towel. He walks me through some guided meditation that’s by the book, but still, I feel a bit like I’m being hypnotised. Thoughts start getting surreal and I keep morphing into Sheridan and then Gemima, who’ve both lain in this very spot. Maybe their psychic shadows are imprinting on me. It’s really off-putting. (“Maybe something awful happened on that table and you were disassociating,” James at the train station coffee cart says later.)

The pranic healing itself is done hands-off, other than occasional light touches on my head, but when Greg lubes up to segue into the massage, I freak out a bit. When a woman’s massaged my head or hands in a spa treatment I’ve enjoyed it, but having a man do something so intimate without getting me shitfaced first is incredibly confronting. And this goes on for three hours. Have you any idea how massaged you can become in three hours? There are 206 bones in the human body, and Greg swizzle-sticks them all, with no earlobe or toe left unturned. In fact, I can confidently say he now knows my body more intimately than any man I’ve ever slept with, with the exception of my sexual organs – although I’m sure he gave them a sly massage through some meridian point. Sometimes his hands tremble with the force of whatever’s coming out of them. I amuse myself by trying to zap him back with some piping hot lifeforce of my own.

My critical mind keeps piping up to mock my attempts at being pure consciousness. What if he’s rubbing himself right in front of your face? … Shut up, he can hear you, you know … He must be so bored, you should apologise and leave… This is rubbish; nothing’s happening … What’s that? Is that his leg?

Then, of course, something strange happens. It’s when Greg works from my lower back, up my arms and to my hands that I start crying, facedown in that towelly nook. I’ve barely got time for a We’re not really going to do this, are we? when I feel a bottomless well of grief and loneliness; not just the pinpricks of self-pity that can be willed out when one is laid horizontal and feeling a bit vulnerable, but grief bleeding out of my eyeballs and filling my mouth. Quietly. My fingers curl softly around his arm. He’s gentle, respectful and non-intrusive. I want him to stop touching me and not leave me at the same time.

Through the hole in the table I discover there’s a flower to look at, which my tears are plopping into. There’s some kind of card with writing on it as well, but my eyes are too blurry. Thankfully, when Greg moves onto my legs the feeling goes and I’m lulled into a vegetative state.

Afterwards, after I’ve got dressed, Greg pulls out a chart and shows me where the energy blockages were. He doesn’t need to tell me; I could feel which bits were stiff as a board and resisting arrest. But he tells me what that’s likely to mean, depending on which meridian lines and chakras are affected. He correctly identifies what memories came up for me, and reports on images he saw, which I was seeing, too.

The more time that goes by as I journey home and go about my business the next day, the more I’m able to rationalise the experience as coincidence, general knowledge and the law of probability… but it should be noted that at the time, I was buying it. Or if not entirely buying it, definitely putting it on lay-by. And as Greg says, “Our critical mind doesn’t want us freeing ourselves of the traps we’ve made.”

As a side note:
Greg gives an explanation of how we recreate our past experiences over and over as our lives spiral through time. Our DNA’s a spiral, he says, and so is the universe. The planets rotate around the sun, but beyond that the universe is spiraling, and so history keeps on repeating itself until we can gain some perspective by ascending up the six spheres of consciousness. It’s a theory favoured by David Icke.

Also, says Greg, our DNA carries the imprints of our parents, grandparents and ancestors, whose experiences become our own. It’s an idea I first heard from strange Theta-Healer and DNA restrander Maria. It’s not dissimilar to the idea that DNA replicates at a distance, which has been posited by Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier (argh! Nobel Prize science and pseudoscience collide. Now I feel even more wobbly), recently backed up by Professor Jeff Reimer at the University of Sydney. Psychic slayer James Randi disagrees with the idea of DNA teleportation, needless to say, drawing comparisons with homeopaths’ claims that water has memory.

Getting electrocuted by reiki

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I think I’ll draw up a couple of DON’T TOUCH stickers to put on the two inexplicably intense points on my body that people should steer clear of, because even when I warn a New Ager not to go anywhere near them for risk of a knee to the nose, they do. I’ve been told they’re the result of a jealous lover’s arrows in a previous life.

Seems like nobody’s quite sure what reiki is. Try a little experiment now – open a window and ask somebody.

Here, in a woody ‘burb in the city, I’m given crystals to hold and there’s some touching and waving going on. The practitioner has very warm fingers and it feels kind of nice. Then she sends me shooting 10ft in the air by craftily going for one of the verboten points while I’m lulled into a false, floppy sense of security by the Native Indian chanting and wafty smell of jasmine. It’s like Luke Skywalker being electrocuted by The Emperor. It takes me ages to relax again.

“How’d you go?” I ask her after, when I’ve climbed back off the table and regained my composure. “Can you feel anything when you’re working on someone?”

“You can feel blockages of energy,” she replies… And there’s a bit of a pause.

“Did I have a blockage, then?”

“You actually had a guardian child standing at your Sacral Centre,” she chuckles. “She had her arms folded and she was saying, ‘Nup,’ so I couldn’t get to it. I thought I’d just sneak around the side, but she wouldn’t let me. That’s when you jumped.”

I respond with, “Mm, that makes sense,” which is my default thing to say in these situations.

“It wasn’t like she was sitting in the corner crying,” the practitioner says. “She was quite feisty. In the end I persuaded her to take down your natural shield, and together we put up a pink shield with gold sparkles in it. You’ll find that it protects you, but it will get a bit ragged if you have too much emotional stress – and that’s when you’ll find you need another session.”

I leave feeling thoroughly manipulated. And not by cleansing violet light.


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“I don’t know what I do for a living,” shrugs Mark. “People ask me and I say, ‘I make people cry. Sometimes they fall asleep.’”

I’m back in Byron Bay, the Most Spiritual Town in Australia, back where I started my Snake Oil Skeptic quest. I’ve bought some Aphrodite Herb Tea, Maca Inca Superfood Powder, worn a floaty frock, followed the sound of steel drums and talked rubbish to the local ne’er-do-wells while staring out to sea, but really I’m here to see the healer from day one.

So far all my experiences with healers and psychics have left me with nothing but flaring nostrils and clenched fists – all except for Mark. There’s definitely something going on with him. I shit you not, when I look into his eyes I feel a bit hypnotised, like the rest of the room disappears. I’m hoping he can give me some pointers on how to become more open to spiritual experiences while accepting none of the rhetoric. I’ve felt like I’ve had a spiritual side since I was a kid without all that; I’ve felt it buzz and pulse and hum. And then abandon ship at around puberty.

“I just can’t get past chakras,” I say, as Mark sits across from me and bores his eyes pleasantly into my head. “So they’re everywhere spinning in the body… but where’s the shred of evidence? Can I get anywhere without accepting chakras as a basic foundation upon which to build?”

“I’m not interested in chakras,” Mark says. “I just know what I can see and feel; I can’t explain it and I don’t want to study it. It was drummed out of me as a child, because I grew up in a very scientific family. Then, when I reached my thirties I tried studying healing under two egotistical healers and it was a terrible experience.”

He asks if I’ve read any Eckhart Tolle. “I’ve been carrying around The Power of Now for ages,” I admit, “but I can’t bring myself to read it.” Especially in public.

“Your ego mind won’t let you,” Mark says. “But the ego mind is just a construction. Imagine it as a voice sitting on your shoulder, trying to tell you what to do. You are not your mind, you are a higher self.”

“I would call that ‘higher self’ my unconscious mind,” I challenge. And that goes for angels, higher powers, spirit guides, coming across weird ‘signs’ and ‘miracles’, and much other new age phenomena. Unconscious mind.

“Yeah, whatever you want to call it,” he says (touché!). “Just try not to intellectualise spirituality. You’re spiritual already; your ego mind just doesn’t want you to be because it wants to be in control. People study spirituality as hard as possible and think they should be here, when they’re here.” He moves his hand along an imaginary scale. “You get people wandering around Byron who look spiritual, but they’re not – they’re terrible people.”

Before I hop on the table, Mark checks out my energy by staring at the wall a few metres away.

“It’s all over the place,” he says.

“You’re not even looking.”

“I don’t have to look right at you, I can see it anywhere. I can see it remotely, around someone in another town. You’re throwing energy out but not letting any in. It’s important to forgive yourself for things. And you’re floating a metre above the ground. It’s important to stay grounded and draw up energy from the ground.”

I’m probably on the table for about 40 minutes, with Mark moving his hands around about six inches over my body. I’ve had this done loads of times in the name of journalism and felt nothing but intense irritation. When Mark does it I bounce like I’m floating on a lilo in the sun, a pina colada in one hand. There’s a subtle sense of being pulled upwards, but more noticeable are the ripples pulsing down my body from my head, finally streaming out of my feet. It’s not an Icke-style awakening, but it’s something.

I swing my legs off the table and Mark looks into my eyes. “Wow. That’s beautiful,” he swoons of my newly arranged energy, in a totally non-pervey way. I think everybody – new ager or skeptic – is secretly waiting for someone to tell them they have a stunning aura, so I’m pleased by this.

Questions I wanted to ask but didn’t, for fear of hearing vague answers that would prompt more questions:

  • Can you mess with someone’s energy as they’re walking down the street without them knowing?
  • Are the spirit guides aliens from the star system Alpha Draconis?
  • Why did they give us critical minds?
  • Why does Universal energy need human vessels?
  • If we’re made up of a higher self and ego mind, which one does the libido belong to?

Poking my Pineal Gland

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Got a third eye tattoo? Pull up a chair!

Riding on the breeze there came the distant rumble of bongos. But instead of the familiar knot of repulsion in my gut, I found myself imagining the satisfaction the bongo botherers were getting out of interlocking their rhythms and looping into infinity, like psychedelic fractals.

“Thank god,” said a fellow diner when infinity petered out; but at this they started up again, which made me titter and root for the bongo botherers.

I drained the ubiquitous latte and set off to follow the sound.

Richard was not from anywhere in particular, but a citizen of planet earth. To be fair he didn’t utter this himself, but I deduced it from his rough, brown legs, straggly goatee and faraway stare. He perched on a rock, looked out to sea and requested a rolling paper. I shifted over to sit next to him and threw sticks for his sandy dog, which was wearing a bandana. The sun was setting epically over Mount Warning. Richard requested some tobacco.

This lovely photo of my new friends provoked vile threats about glassings and chasing people with flamethrowers when I posted it on Facebook.

“Get here earlier tomorrow,” he said. “You need to absorb some vitamin D from the sun and decalcify your pineal gland. That’s your third eye. It calcifies as you get older.” I pictured it scabbed and scaly as a cuttlefish bone behind my chickenpox scar.

Richard gave me a lentil pie he’d salvaged from a dumpster behind the bakery and cracked one open himself.

I thought about what to say other than, “And what do you do?”

“This is all just a figment of our imagination,” he offered before I could come up with anything. He swept his hand out at the shimmering horizon. “What we see here, we have created. Think about taking acid or mushrooms, and how differently you see things then.

“We’re all made up of energy,” he continued. “Like golden light. Sometimes when we meet someone with the wrong energy we’re like lightsabers, you know? Shwwwwung, shwwwwung. But we’re all just drops in the ocean. How do I know? I’ve read enough books and had enough conversations to be sure.”

It helped that Richard was good looking, in the same way that market researchers recruit hot young students to wield clipboards and bounce into your path. Sometimes you’ll weaken and listen. Richard talked some more about the meaning of life, and then drifted off. “Maybe your reason for coming to Byron Bay was for us to have this conversation,” he said in parting.

I wandered off into the sun’s crimson haze, and had a think about my pineal gland. The ancient Egyptians called it the Eye of Horus; the Freemasons depicted the All-Seeing Eye of the Great Architect of the Universe on the dollar bill. It’s known as the Third Eye of clairvoyance, or the Crown Chakra in the Hindu religion and sees metaphysical reality, not physical reality. Metaphysically, your soul leaves your body through it; physically, it secretes melatonin and serotonin, regulating sleep and mood. I want to see if I can get mine picking up stuff my other senses can’t.

How to stimulate your pineal gland without drugs, according to the internet 

  • Musically, the pineal gland resonates to the frequency of B. Get a tuning fork and ‘om’ along.
  • It emits a violet/white frequency, so enjoys having amethyst, charoite, dumorierite and quartz crystals of the same hue placed over it for up to 90 minutes.
  • Burn or massage in essential oils of mugwort, sandalwood, lavender, frankincense, myrrh, pine, oakmoss, and Himalayan cedar.
  • Consume chamomile, pine bark, lavender bud, wild indigo bark, violet, licorice and ginseng.
  • Tape a small, gold-plated magnet over your PG and wear for a few hours throughout the day.
  • Hold the pointed side of a quartz or amethyst crystal to the pineal gland while looking up to the morning sun.
  • Chant.
  • Have Tantric sex.
  • Rub milk snow on the male’s pineal gland. Milk snow is vaginal fluid, just quietly.

That’s all on the ‘to do’ list.

Conclusion: You know, I think I did go to Byron Bay to meet Richard, as sitting and talking to anyone on a pile of rocks while the sun goes down is quite out of character.

Further reading: This is the most concise, well-balanced article I found on the third eye: