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Observations placeholder

Schwarz, Jack - Beyond Biofeedback by Drs Elmer and Alyce Green – A demonstration of control of pain



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

It is of interest that Swami Rama, Rolling Thunder, and Jack Schwarz are all practitioners of "unconventional healing." These men, who have unusual control of their own bodies and unusual awareness of the problems of other people, believe that good health will be difficult to achieve on a large scale until Western scientific medicine makes room for methods that, for countless generations of human life, were often the only ways of healing. They believe that skillful general practitioners trained in Western medicine often know much about, or unconsciously use, some of these unconventional methods, such as healing by the "laying on of hands."

We did not make a focused effort to interrogate Jack when we began the laboratory work. As with Swami Rama, we asked him to tell us what he would like to demonstrate while wired up. Jack wanted to start with a demonstration of control of bleeding. Dale and Alyce wired him in the same way we prepared college-student subjects in other research. When he sat down in the experimental room he produced an envelope with two 6-inch steel sailmaker's needles. He said he would push the needles through his biceps and demonstrate bleeding control. During a preliminary period of the test we had trouble with the polygraph. A broken wire had to be tracked down and repaired, so we asked Jack to allow himself to just relax and be comfortable. Jack's heart had been beating at an average rate of about eighty-five beats per minute, but in the few minutes we were working with the polygraph, his heart rate dropped down into the sixties. There was no tension or nervousness. In this Jack demonstrated the consistency of his control-a control, we have observed, that he can turn on at will.

Jack was wired to record the behaviour of a number of physiological variables that give indications of stress reactions: heart rate, breathing rate, galvanic skin response, skin temperature, and brain waves. While we were adjusting the equipment near him, one of his needles rolled off the board on which his hands were placed and fell to the floor. As I picked it up I realized that we had not sterilized the needles, and I asked if he wanted me to do anything about it. He said, "No, I often sterilize my needle by putting it on the floor and rolling it under my shoe."

Jack produced beta waves almost all of the time that he was sitting in the chair in the experimental room. We considered this quite normal under the circumstances, because we expected him to be activated, when he put the tip of the needle to his biceps, however, his brain-wave record began to show alpha. This was exactly the opposite from what the average person could be expected to do. A person sitting in a quiet room with nothing to do will usually begin to produce alpha, but if he were asked to push a needle through his arm he would be expected to abruptly "block" alpha and produce beta. But Jack did exactly the opposite.

Later we heard of a similar finding by Erik Peper. He told us that his subject, Ramon Torres from Peru, had demonstrated the same kind of brain-wave pattern when he pushed a bicycle spoke through his cheeks. As soon as he touched the spoke to his cheek he went from beta into alpha and did not go back into beta until the bicycle spoke had been removed from the other side.

Upon reflection, we can say that this appearance of alpha brain waves during the control of pain makes good sense. We all know that pain is seldom experienced if attention is turned away from the sensation. As noted in Chapter 2, the perception of pain was the subject of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago. In my research there, subjects who did not feel the pain of an electrical stimulator were the ones whose attention was continuously focused elsewhere, on impressions from the eyes and ears, and from whole-body vibration. By contrast, those who felt the pain continuously reported that they were unaware of the lights, sounds, and vibrations which bombarded them. Their attention was on the pain itself. What Jack Schwarz and Peper's subject demonstrated was the ability voluntarily to turn attention away from sensory inputs associated with pain. In that condition they appeared to be free of pain.

The source of the experience

Schwarz, Jack

Concepts, symbols and science items


Activities and commonsteps



Extreme pain