From the archives: Cosmic Crystal Crankery – An examination of ‘New Age’ crystalline nonsense Stephen Moreton The Skeptic

This article originally appeared in The Skeptic, Volume 3, Issue 2, from 1989.

Having been a mineral collector for 15 years I can say that I am well and truly hooked on crystals but emphatically not in the New Age sense. For me the attraction lies in the aesthetic appeal and the scientific interest. For the New Agers crystals are ‘a perfect expression of the divine mind’, they ‘stimulate healing within the body, based upon the principles of harmony and vibration’ and they ‘ transform and harmonise energies at all levels’.

Crystals have attracted mankind for millennia. Peking man collected rock crystals and Australian aborigines use rock crystals and amethysts in rainmaking rites, and they attribute to them malevolent powers. The idea that they can heal the sick has been around in western culture for a long time but with the recent surge in the New Age religion crystals have become big business. Miners in Brazil and Arkansas, the main sources of quartz crystals, can’t dig them out of the ground fast enough-and prices have shot up.

The idea behind it all is that illness is caused by bad vibrations or disruption of energies in the body and that crystals can put these right, but more of that later. My first impression of these crystal healing, telepathic, New Age, pyramid energy people was that they were mostly a bunch of scientific illiterates with no understanding whatsoever of the subjects they profess to know so much about. In the case of crystal healers I have the distinct impression that the majority couldn’t tell orthorhombic from triclinic, would think unit cell was a place where prisoners were kept and that a space group was a rock and roll band from Mars.

No doubt this is true of the majority (and judging by some of the things I have read about crystals it is certainly true of some). It is not true of Ra Bonewitz, whose book Cosmic Crystals (Turnstone Press, 1983) I forced myself to read as a preparation for this article. Bonewitz is a geologist and the first half of his book is a fairly accurate and scientific description of crystals and their properties, though there are boobs like calling cinnabar ‘an oxide of mercury’ (it’s a sulphide). The second half is about 90 to 95% mystical drivel. I was most disappointed that someone who ought to have known better obviously did not.

I was reminded of an American I once read about (regrettably I can’t remember his name) who had a PhD in astronomy and yet believed that the earth lay at the centre of the universe with the sun, planets and stars orbiting it. I suppose even intelligent and well-educated people are not immune to human psychological weaknesses. Bonewitz’s book is fairly representative of crystal healing belief (perhaps slightly better than most) and the material below was derived from it.

For those who want to take up this crystal stuff Bonewitz gives plenty of instructions. First you must obtain a crystal. Ideally you could find your own but don’t worry if you have to buy one – as Bonewitz explains – ‘you are simply exchanging the energy you have put into acquiring your money for the energy the crystal has accumulated in making its way to you. A crystal that has come half way around the world has acquired the energy of the miner, of the buyer, of the importer, and of the various forms of transportation required to reach the mineral seller. The exchange for money energy maintains the perfect balance of energy that characterises a crystal’.

When presented with a selection of crystals and you don’t know which to choose just close your eyes for a moment and open them and grab the first crystal that you see. The first one that catches your eye does so because you have been drawn to it. Then it must be consecrated. Just will that it be used only for good. Now cleanse it of undesirable energies, i.e., wash it in water and ask the elementals of water (whatever they are) to remove those energies (don’ t forget to thank them afterwards). Alternatively, you can leave your crystal in the sun, ·or breathe on it or wash it with eucalyptus oil.

Now you are ready to programme the crystal. Simply direct a thought into the crystal that its energies should be used for a particular purpose and that the crystal should retain that thought or intention within itself.

The crystal can now be used to focus your energies and aid you in your meditation so that you can reach higher levels and ‘begin to discover the divinity within yourself’. It will also protect you from psychic attack and assist in telepathy.

It seems they also have horticultural applications: ‘If you have problems in the garden, put a perfect image of the garden into the crystal, and place or bury the crystal in an appropriate spot in the garden’. If you have an ill plant, fill a crystal with healing energy and leave it next to the plant. To improve plant growth, plant crops in concentric circles (so that the natural energy of the plants is retained in continuous flow rather than dissipated at the ends of rows) and put a crystal in the centre.

Don’t use them for purposes other than those they have been programmed for. Evidently one London homeopath made this mistake. He used a crystal as a repository of homeopathic information and intuition to be used in conjunction with a dowsing pendulum. He then decided to try using the crystal instead for meditation. The next day he discovered that all the homeopathic programming had been erased! I wonder if the patients noticed.

‘How does it work?’ you may ask. Well it’s all to do with energy. Bonewitz distinguishes between ‘mundane energies’ – those that can be measured by scientific instruments – such as electricity, light and heat, and ‘spiritual energies’ – those that cannot be so measured. According to Bonewitz these are, ‘Energies of thought, will, healing, and the energies that make up the higher spiritual bodies.’

Illness is ‘a reflection of disruption or disharmony of energies in the subtle bodies, and …healing takes place by restoring harmony to the subtle bodies.’ This is done by placing a ‘crystal in the area of energy disharmony (illness) and allowing its transformative power to work to bring the subtle energies back into harmony’. That’s funny – I always thought illness was caused by germs, injuries, bad diet, bad habits etc. Bonewitz also has peculiar ideas about epilepsy: ‘…in an epileptic seizure the subtle bodies often become misaligned or completely separated from the physical body’.

What utter baloney. I am naturally concerned that gullible people with serious illnesses will swallow this mystical drivel and seek out crystal healing instead of real medical help. But this problem is not confined to adults who are free to make their own choices, and to affect their own lives. I have this horrible feeling that sooner or later some crystal crank whose young child complains of pain in the lower right abdomen will put a crystal there rather than have the kid’s appendix seen to. As those who follow the activities of American faith-healers will know this sort of scenario has happened before-often with tragic results.

All this was bad enough but when I got to the bit about Atlantis in Bonewitz’s book I nearly threw up. If you think the beliefs I have described to you so far resemble the excrement of male bovines try reading what these people believe about Atlantis. I haven’t the space for details but according to New Agers the inhabitants of Atlantis used crystals extensively with the largest crystals located at major points of earth power. The priesthood, however, were corrupt and tried to use the crystal energies for their own ends. Eventually they tried to literally move whole continents.

At this point ‘the Hierarchy that oversees the development of the Earth’ intervened. The Atlanteans were threatening the whole solar system. The unafflicted priesthood were forewarned and fled to the rest of the world to influence developing cultures in Tibet, China, Egypt and elsewhere. No sooner had they left than Atlantis was violently destroyed in cataclysmic upheavals.

Never mind evidence for all this – there is none and Bonewitz offers none. I suppose one is supposed just to take it all on faith. It all sounds about as probable as flying pigs. Some of the claims about crystals might be testable. The healing claims could be subjected to standard, double blind, clinical trials, just as with drugs. One could perhaps use cut glass as placebos. One particular claim seemed to me to be an especially easy one to examine – that the energies of crystals from Brazil are different to those from Arkansas even though they look the same. Apparently healers can feel the difference.

I doubt the believers would be moved by any negative findings. For them it is a religious belief. It is tied up with immortality, reincarnation and magical powers. Their emotional desire to believe transcends facts and reason. It is all in the mind and something Bonewitz writes merely confirms this for me. He reports that when people are given a crystal and asked to close their eyes and describe the crystal’s energies they have a great variety of different experiences.

Some see images, some see colours, some feel the crystal to be heavy or light, some feel pulsations, heat, cold, or pain, some hear sounds and a few detect smells. To me this collection of contradictory experiences with the same crystal shows that people are just imagining things. To Bonewitz it’s all a part of the magic of crystals.

The post From the archives: Cosmic Crystal Crankery – An examination of ‘New Age’ crystalline nonsense appeared first on The Skeptic.

From the archives in 1989, Dr Stephen Moreton takes a look at the New Age fascination with crystals
The post From the archives: Cosmic Crystal Crankery – An examination of ‘New Age’ crystalline nonsense appeared first on The Skeptic.