Their culture, created and maintained through shared stories about the product, had a creation story--the story about the genius who formulated the product and his trials and tribulations in getting it out to the public. The story included his persecution by the Food and Drug Administration and by medical authorities. The stories shared by this community informed its members about how to perceive themselves and their environment, including how to view people who didn't use the product and those who were outright skeptical of it.
I found these followers of the vitamin product fascinating for their collective creation of a subculture through telling stories and sharing an understanding for the meaning of those stories. How did this shared culture and understanding translate into physiological healing? What are the biological principles behind this transformation of the vitamin product into an agent for healing and curing? The followers of the product would never ask these questions, of such interest to me. Such questions lie outside their worldview. They would have never imagined that their social network and the beliefs that it sustained and nurtured could have brought out the biological activity of healing, related in part to their complete and total faith in the vitamin product. Their faith in the product appeared to prevent them from creating alternate stories that would take the power of healing away from the product and give it back to the community.
In my studies of
extraordinary healing, I didn't encounter a single person who had healed
in isolation. Perhaps such people exist, but I could never have found
them if they existed in that much isolation. The philosopher Ervin
Laszlo believes that communities of people are connected by fields of
energy.2 He provides an explanation within the realm of
contemporary physics for Jesus's statement that "I am there whenever two
or more are gathered in my name."
create systems that generate an energy field, which feeds back to make
the people within the system more connected to each other and more
coherent in their thoughts and feelings. Ancient tradition teaches us
that when two or more people gather to pray and worship, over time their
prayers become more powerful. Modern research shows greater energy
field strength when more people are praying together, with increased
coherence among their brain wave patterns. These energy fields are
generated by the relationships formed through the telling of shared
Powerful healing is created through the telling and retelling of shared stories that build the energy field connecting the people involved, as has happened within Native American communities throughout the ages. When the same people do ceremony together week after week for years, great healing power is created. This process can also happen outside of church or ceremony.
The sociologist Erving Goffman wrote that language allows us to create any story or explanatory framework through our conversations.3 He compared this to the freedom of a playwright to first create a stage and then to people it with characters of his or her choosing. Goffman asserted that "talk" embeds, insets and intermingles." This line of thinking would imply that the talk about the product created, in a very real sense, its healing power, which increases in strength the closer one gets to the source of that dialogue--the inner sanctum around its "creator." Without the story of how the product was created, accompanied by the heart-felt testimonials about its use and effectiveness, the product would fail to have anywhere near the healing power that it demonstrated in the collection of stories told about it.
In Ervin Laszlo's systems philosophy, these physical conversations affect and become embedded within a larger energy field (the quantum waveform), which, in turn, feeds back to "in-form" the people creating the conversation about a more comprehensive version that includes everyone's ideas and contributions. The field contains the entire conversation, while each individual holds only a small part of it. Rupert Sheldrake called this energy field the morphogenic field, arguing that it contains ideas that become accessible to everyone.4 What this means is that our explanatory stories, our creation stories, really do feed back to create us. They become larger than we are, even develop biological effects. Imagine that the followers of the vitamin product, through their constant living of the story about the miracle of the product and their ongoing conversations about the product, embed this information about the product into an energy field that informs their community about how to be even more effective in service to the vitamin product. Membership in the community makes one an "actor" on a stage in which the product works phenomenally well. The more central you are as an actor in that "play" about the product, the more powerful it will be for you.
Peripheral characters may not get nearly the benefit that comes to true believers. This means that the power of any substance (even a conventional pharmaceutical drug) is not separable from the stories told about the substance--stories about where and how it was created, accompanied by testimonials, told perhaps in the language of science, perhaps in the language of television commercials. Biological activity is inseparable from stories about how useful something is in practice. This makes perfect sense if biology and consciousness are inseparable. The creation stories and the biological effect inform one other, building progressively greater power.