By doing a simple reading over the telephone, medical intuitives say they can divine the source of your illness.
Karen S. had been suffering from lower-back pain before her divorce, but once she and her husband finally split for good, it not only intensified, she developed severe gastrointestinal problems. Medical examinations provided no clues, and medication offered no relief. When her doctor started pressing for back surgery, Karen, a psychiatrist in a Southern city, did something she had never done before: She had a phone consultation with a medical intuitive.
Without being told a thing, the intuitive homed right in on Karen's herniated disk, the GI problems, and even the recent loss in her life. But the intuitive's accuracy didn't shock Karen nearly as much as something else that she said: "So what's going to happen next?" she asked. "Will this travel up to your heart? To your breasts? This is coming from what you have not dealt with in your divorce, and until you do, the problems will progress."
As a psychiatrist, Karen thought she had worked through the emotions that come with divorce. But her ex had spent so much of her money that she was in serious debt. She had gotten over the marriage, but not the embarrassment of financial woes. Thanks to the intuitive reading, Karen says, she realized she was going to have to reckon with some issues before her health would improve.
"You can do a lot of reading about it," says Karen, "but until you get the mind/body connection translated into your own body's terms, you don't really get it."
It's a surprising phenomenon: At a time when science is building machines that can peer ever more precisely into the mechanical workings of the body, more and more people are turning to intuitives for medical guidance. The connections they make are ones that machines could never fathom. Detractors scoff, but countless people claim that intuitives have solved medical mysteries their doctors couldn't crack. Maybe that's because X rays can't photograph your feelings.
What's notable about Karen's reading is that the intuitive was also a medical professional. Her name is Mona Lisa Schulz, and she's a neuropsychiatrist with a medical degree, a Ph.D., and a private practice in Yarmouth, Maine. In her conventional practice she evaluates and diagnoses patients and regulates their medications. But Schulz believes she offers added benefits as an intuitive. Several mornings a week, she conducts phone readings with people around the country, tuning into their bodies and helping them understand the emotional and psychological underpinnings of their physical symptoms.
"Scientific research suggests that every illness is in part due to genetics, environmental factors, diet, or physical trauma," says Schulz, "but I am convinced that every illness is in part initiated or aggravated by emotional factors, and that is what I elucidate as a medical intuitive." In Schulz's worldview, all our experiences get encoded in our cells, and these "repressed memories" continue to affect the way we see and interact with the world. "When people want to know what their body is trying to tell them through the intuitive language of illness," says Schulz, "they call me."
Fundamental to medical intuition is what Carolyn Myss, who is considered the elder statesperson of the field, has dubbed "energy anatomy." On the physical plane humans are composed of skin, bones, organs, tissues, and cells. But in the eyes of medical intuitives -- and many others -- we also exist as energy. Many Eastern healing systems are predicated on the belief that energy travels through our bodies via pathways called meridians. In yogic tradition, that energy is stored in seven basic centers, the chakras. Each chakra is associated with specific emotions, psychological issues, and diseases. Medical intuitives like Myss scan peoples' energetic bodies and find imbalances that correlate to one or more chakras.
From this data, a diagnosis could be made -- except most reputable intuitives refuse to do so. "As intuitives, we describe the symptoms, we don't diagnose," says Schulz. "First of all, that would be practicing medicine without a license. Second, even a doctor can't do that unless he has a body for a biopsy or X-ray. And third, you're scaring the hell out of people. They don't hear 'pre-cancer'; they hear 'cancer.' Words can heal or words can screw you up."
Like most medical intuitives, Laura Alden Kamm, who has been called a walking MRI by more than one of the six M.D.s she works with in Scottsdale, Arizona, and around the country, needs only a person's name to direct her "X-ray vision" into their energy field. "In the reality of intuition, there is no time or space," she explains. "My vision is like an electron microscope; I just 'go' into a person's energy field, all the way into their DNA if necessary. It's like a high-definition movie that can be seen in a 360 degree rotating holographic capacity."
"Initially I am guided by the person's questions," Kamm says, "but their body's intelligence takes over and guides me." When it's a doctor asking her to scan a patient for cancer, she says, she goes to any area that "lights up" with wavering visual cues. "If there's disease in the body, the energy field will demonstrate an imbalance. It's like looking at the heat coming off a road." From there, she telescopes down to organ systems and looks for physical and energetic variances in color, texture, viscosity, and cell structure. "Answers come in feelings and language," she says. "Sometimes I see actual words, lit up like on a theater marquee."
Caroline Myss was one of the first medical intuitives to work with an M.D. From 1984 until 2002, she worked closely with neurosurgeon C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., doing up to six distance readings a day for his patients, which he would corroborate with MRIs, CT scans, and other tests. "Over time, I found Caroline to be 93 percent accurate," says Shealy, who lives in Fair Grove, Missouri. He adds that throughout the years, scores of people wrote him claiming to be as good as Caroline. "Not one was even 50 percent accurate," he says. But Myss bristled at the term "psychic." "So Norm came up with the term 'medical intuitive,'" she says. "In those early days we were really out on a limb. Now you can't imagine how many call themselves medical intuitives."
Because the field is unregulated, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have hung out shingles (i.e., created Web sites) announcing their ability to scan your body with their unique vision and tell you precisely what's wrong. From the get-go, Myss and Shealy believed that some kind of accreditation system was necessary. In 2000 they established the American Board of Scientific Medical Intuition, which requires candidates to be at least 75 percent accurate under test conditions. They also founded the first doctoral program in energy medicine, which has become Holos University Graduate Seminary in Fair Grove, Missouri, which trains students for careers in medical intuition and spiritual healing. Certification is still voluntary, but Shealy and Myss, who no longer does personal readings, feel that medical intuition is well on its way to becoming a legitimate profession.
Of course not everyone agrees. Many medical professionals, notably Wallace Sampson, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist, Stanford University clinical professor, and editor of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, equate medical intuitives with storefront palm readers. "You may not know or understand how they do it," insists Sampson, "but we do, and it's trickery. They 'succeed' because they state things people want to hear and that seem to be valid. But there's no such thing as intuition separate from knowledge. The mind uses information it already has and manipulates it in order to satisfy the needs of the client."
Sampson gives several examples of so-called intuitives who, when put to scientifically designed tests, all failed. "It's all power of suggestion," he says. Some of the tricks he describes are throwing out general statements, then asking for feedback; asking leading questions; and seizing on facts people unwittingly reveal. As for the scores of fellow physicians who have corroborated intuitives' readings with tests, Sampson summarily dismisses them.
"The only difference between a charlatan and a misguided professional is the intent," he says. "A charlatan wants your money, the professional believes in it. And the M.D. [who believes in medical intuition] is the greatest fool."
It's no wonder there are detractors, counters Shealy, who did his neurosurgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "Intuition takes away the ability of the [medical] system to control people," he explains. "I don't know a written, verbal, or psychological test that's as good as a competent intuitive. Tests can't pick up truly hidden problems." He cites the case of a fortysomething woman who came in complaining of excessive menstrual bleeding. His medical intake and physical exam revealed nothing, so he called Myss. "Ask her about the two abortions," she said. When he did, the patient burst into tears.
Jill L., a telecommunications executive in Colorado, had been fired from her high powered job for "lack of focus." But she was mystified, not being conscious of any such lapses. She had epilepsy but did not associate her illness with her job issues -- she hadn't had a seizure in well over a decade. Mona Lisa Schulz told her that she was actually having mini-seizures again and that they were the cause of her memory lapses. Skeptical, Jill went for neurological testing, which confirmed the assessment. Says Jill: "That reading ripped away the veil that was covering part of my own awareness. Had I not had it, I wouldn't have had the tests -- and who knows what would have happened?"
To Schulz, disease symptoms are part of our intuitive guidance system. "Physical illness is like our body's dashboard warning light going off," she says. "It lets us know when something in our emotional life is out of balance." If we would hear the body when it's whispering, she says, we wouldn't have to wait until it's screaming -- in the form of full-blown disease. Norman Shealy takes that thinking one step further: "The root cause of 85 percent of illness is a person's unfinished business -- some emotional or psychological hang-ups or self-esteem issues. Let's face it," he adds, "if I'm right, and I am, a great deal of what conventional doctors do isn't, and this would put them out of business."
Winter Robinson is a medical intuitive and author, and she teaches her craft in workshops, mainly to therapists and health practitioners. Like many intuitives, she sensed her ability as a child but chose to ignore it. One day, when she was in her twenties and working as a mental-health analyst for the Virginia attorney general, she was asked to fetch some document numbers for an upcoming trial. "Without a second thought, I wrote the numbers and handed them to my secretary, who soon returned and said, 'These are not [right]. These are random letters that I boxed up to be sent to the archives this morning." Robinson tried again, this time successfully. Later that day she learned that a new lawsuit had been filed, and the documents needed were the very ones whose numbers she had jotted down earlier. "Thanks to my 'mistake,' the box had not been sent to the archives and the documents were easily retrieved."
That event resuscitated her interest in intuition, and she began to pursue it. Over time, she developed a reputation for accurate distance readings and attracted the attention of a physician and professor at an Ivy League university. He was curious how doctors could benefit from this work, and they developed a professional association. From his New England office, he would give her a name and address and she would "find" and scan patients while in Virginia. "We must have done more than 100 cases," says the doctor, who requested we not print his name. He found Robinson to be on target most of the time and says that he became more intuitive himself in the process. "The more I learn, the more I realize how complex [illness] is. We should use every bit of information we can get and explore it further, including a person's psyche," he says.
In the late 1980s, Robinson and this doctor began organizing meetings at that Ivy institution, teaching medical students the principles of medical intuition and intuitive diagnosis. "The class grew by leaps and bounds," says Robinson. "By the time we stopped, we had as many physicians in it as students."
Lorraine G. of Connecticut suffered from incapacitating shoulder pain for a year before she contacted Robinson for a reading. Robinson told her she had a blockage in her neck and advised her to get it checked out by an M.D. "X rays revealed a narrowing of the intervertebral space, suggesting a disk pressing on a nerve," Lorraine wrote in a thank-you note. "You recommended craniosacral therapy, and the doctor suggested neck traction. Between them, they have almost completely eliminated my pain."
Ultimately, medical intuitives' role is helping people find an effective course of action. Kamm says she has recommended everything from getting tests to seeing a Chinese doctor to changing jobs. Mostly, she says, people come with cancer, with depression or anxiety, or what she calls stress-related illnesses, like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue. But about 20 percent of readings are for people who just want to gain insight into the spiritual connection of health and disease.
"What people really want," says Robinson, "is their own empowerment. Everyone is a medical intuitive, especially for themselves," she insists, "if they will just explore the possibility."
Finding a Medical Intuitive
Here are suggested guidelines from the intuitives who were interviewed for this article.
1. Get referrals from people you know well and trust. You can also consult the American Board for Scientific Medical Intuition: www.absmi.com
2. Make sure the person doesn't diagnose, prescribe treatment, or do psychotherapy.
3. Ask whether the intuitive works with a physician, and if so, speak to the doctor.
4. Ask about the specific conditions she's helped people with.
5. Ask how often you need to come back (good intuitives rarely need to consult more than once).
6. Use your own intuition. Does she try to oversell her abilities? Is her emphasis on helping you find answers to what is going on?
Where and Why You Hurt
Many medical intuitives recognize yogic philosophy, which holds that imbalances in our seven energy centers, the chakras, can affect our emotional and physical health. Use the following chart to locate your chakras and the areas of your life and health that each one influences. A fear of speaking out or a clenched jaw, for instance, may indicate an imbalance in the 5th chakra.
1st Chakra: Root
Location: Base of Groin
Life Issues: Safety, security, families, belonging, social support
Physical Issues: Bones, joints, immune system
2nd Chakra: Water
Location: 2 inches below navel
Life Issues: Relationships, finances
Physical Issues: Lower back, hips, uterus, ovaries, prostate, reproductive organs
3rd Chakra: Fire
Location: 2 inches above navel
Life Issues: Self-esteem, responsibilities, work
Physical Issues: Digestive tract, eating, weight, kidneys, addiction
4th Chakra: Heart
Location: Center of chest
Life Issues: Emotional expression, passion, partnership, nurturance
Physical Issues: Heart, breasts, lung
5th Chakra: Throat
Location: Center of throat
Life Issues: Communication, will, timing
Physical Issues: Thyroid, neck, jaw, teeth
6th Chakra: Third Eye
Location: Just above center point between eyebrows
Life Issues: Perception, thought, morality, intuition
Physical Issues: Eyes, ear, brain
7th Chakra: Crown
Location: Crown of head
Life Issues: Purpose in life, spirituality
Physical Issues: Life-threatening illness, congenital problems
Text by Suzanne Gerber; photographs by Andrew Zuckerman