How quickly do we accept something if it’s verified by science?

How quickly do we dismiss practices that go beyond scientific validation?

Amy Worsley, winner of the 2016 FACT+Liverpool Hope Production Residency Award, has worked with a scientist and Reiki practitioner to explore the spiritual healing art of Reiki.

Reiki works on the belief that a life force energy flows through us all, and accepting negative thoughts can lead to disruptions in flow, thus causing physical manifestations in the body. These disruptions can be remedied through Reiki: healing energy pathways, unblocking chakras (energy centres in the body), and allowing energy to flow healthily.

But many don’t believe in Reiki. It’s difficult to observe Reiki in a situation: it's invisible, transcends time and space, and is guided by a god-consciousness that always knows what to do. These traits, while idyllic, are hard for scientists to directly observe, quantify, and explain.

Because of this, it’s difficult for Western medicine, which relies on empirical data, to state that Reiki is a valid form of treatment.

And because of this, we are more likely to meet alternative medicine with distrust.

Or is it all in our heads?

The placebo effect is where we have a response to something because we think it works – such as feeling better after taking medicine, but in actual fact we’ve taken a sugar pill (with no active substance). Could a Reiki patient’s wellbeing improve because they simply expect the treatment to work?

A study conducted in 2008 may provide some evidence for the effectiveness of Reiki: stressed rats received treatments of Reiki and scientists found that there was a significant reduction in stress for the group that received Reiki (with no change in the group that received ‘sham Reiki’). Using rats as subjects eliminated variables that affect human subjects (such as scepticism, placebo, and belief).

Amy Worsley’s work challenges us to question our own beliefs: by working with both a Reiki practitioner and scientist, Worsley’s Chairkra, through vibrations, aims to mimic the positive effects of Reiki, and invites us to make our own decisions on the validity of the practice.

What do you believe? Experience Amy's Chairkra for yourself in FACT's foyer, where it's displayed alongside our latest exhibition, No Such Thing As Gravity until 5 February 2017.