Let’s Get Physical: BodyTalk Baseless

When I was in my second year at college, the first time, I was working at a dinner theatre in Mississauga, west of Toronto, to pay the bills.  We were playing Grease and as the head electrician I had some time to pass, so I picked up Scientific American to read during the show – Discovery was so, “common”.  I did not understand much of it, but the desire to try to uncover what was behind the illusory face of the natural world was compelling so I stuck with it.  It was around that time that I also picked up Fritjof Capra’s 1975 mystical classic The Tao of Physics, a book that purported to link the acetic simplicity of eastern mysticism with the baroque complexity of quantum mechanics (QM).  As an artist, I was drawn to this kind of  message: that art was not just some past time of the disenfranchised, but important; that it could lead to just as clear an understanding of how the universe worked as the deepest physics.

John Veltheim had a similar experience.  As a classical chiropractor and acupuncturist from Australia, he was dissatisfied with the extents of his traditional practice and after reading a later book by Capra entitled The Turning Point, he had an epiphany: that it was “silly to be looking at the physical particles of the body…Working on just the physical level was always going to be first aid.”  It was from this revelation that Veltheim began to formulate his concept of BodyTalk, a system that purports to reset the energy balance of the body, by rejecting what Capra called the Newtonian view of the medicine and replace it with a system based on quantum states.*

The Tao of Physics is an interesting read, but no more than just story.  It attempts to fit the very general and nebulous ideas about the universe from the taoist perspective to a very specific and mathematical version of the universe as laid out in QM.  Capra was a PhD physicist, and had put his money behind a now defunct version of QM called the “bootstrap theory” that was later replaced with quantum chromodynamics. The error that many of the modern energy gurus who claim the word quantum make is they think that  the analogies used by theoretical physicists ARE  the science and not just a way to explain a very complicated theory.  Mathematics is the actual language of particle physics, not story, and the one unifying factor that energy magic has is the gurus never use maths to describe their claim.  Most or all of what they say is just made up out of whole cloth, and Veltheim is no different.

First Year Academic Failure

One look at the “scientific” basis for the BodyTalk system will tell you that not only has Veltheim pulled the ideas out of his butt but he would fail the most basic of undergrad essay assignments, let alone one in a science faculty.  His argument for his system, as laid out in the Journal of Alternative Medicine Research** (JAMR), makes claim after claim of revolutionary ideas about human physiology and how his system works without a suggestion of a reference or proof to back up his statements.  The only author he cites is Capra and a JL Oschman who writes about Capra.  He goes so far as to evoke the names of Darwin, Rupert Sheldrake (!) and Buckminster Fuller, sometimes making direct quotes, without any attribution.  The claim that the Journal is peer-reviewed is a farce, given the lack of these basic tenets of academic publishing, and the entire issue of the journal, given up to the discussion of BodyTalk, is not worth the e-paper it is printing on.

A Shocking Disregard for Physiology

A complete tear-down of the BodyTalk system would take pages and would be a complete waste of time, as the above proof about says it all.  What brought this to my attention was a video, produced by Veltheim, describing the application of the Cortices Technique, as a way of sharing a “life-saving” modality with the world thanks to the benevolence of the International BodyTalk Foundation (yes, it has charitable status).  The video makes a claim in the description that is repeated in one of Veltheim’s articles in JAMR called Techniques of BodyTalk 1: Tapping the Cortices, that emergency medical teams have used the Cortices Technique to avert shock (!) in a patient, even stopping internal bleeding and thus saving the life of car-crash victims.

“Paramedics tend to car accidents and see people walking around in a daze. From a medical point of view, when the body is in a state of shock, it does not look after the internal mechanisms of the body well.  Therefore, if such an accident victim is internally hemorrhaging in the lungs or in the bowel while in the state of shock, the hemorrhaging would not be controlled” (Techniques of BodyTalk I: Tapping the Cortices page 307)

It is obvious from the article, unreferenced again, that Veltheim knows nothing about shock or its true origins, or even what it is.  Shock is considered in a medical context to be a lack of perfusion to the tissues (look John, here is a what a reference looks like), with either reduced or no blood flow to tissue and/or a lack of removal of blood from the tissue.  Following from the Fick Principle, we have three parts of the body that can be affected and cause shock: the pipes, the pump and/or the fluid.  A heart attack destroys the pump, the pipes can be blocked, narrowed or made to small or too big, and the fluid can be lost, reduced, or its oxygen carrying capacity interfered with.  The above Merck Manual article on shock outlines the many different kinds of shock, none of which Veltheim details, and all of which, if ignored, could kill you.

Veltheim even makes up his own new kind of shock, called “chronic shock” or “semi-shock”, which is, I guess, like being semi-pregnant:

“The other benefit of Cortices that BodyTalk practitioners have seen over the years is for people who are in a chronic mild state of shock. Because of the daily stresses discussed earlier, these people have blankness in the eyes and while the response are present the person is not clear or sharp. These people can function at their basic job and even drive a car, but they are in this constant state of semi-shock which is a sort of coping mechanism the body uses in order to dull the trauma of being in a stressed state” (Techniques of BodyTalk I: Tapping the Cortices page 309)
And this is not a metaphor, Veltheim really believes that doing this technique can stop shock in its tracks:
“There have even been cases in which someone was openly bleeding through the skin or experiencing an arterial bleed and the bleeding stopped as a result of tapping out the cortices” (Techniques of BodyTalk I: Tapping the Cortices page 307)
Again, completely unreferenced, and completely dangerous.

The Cortices Technique

The Cortices technique is one part of a larger family of techniques that are based on the bogus idea that all of the cells of the body are in constant, instantaneous contact with each other through some magical means, outside of chemistry (see vitalism) and what appears to be (but is not proven to be) electromagnetically, according to Veltheim.  This first video lays out the wild claims of body talk: hold your nose and watch.

So, that heart attack your aunt had last week?  It was her own fault, for holding all that stress inside her for so long that it ‘blew all of her fuses’ and, through some weird double-speak involving the immune-system and radio waves, her heart just could not take it.

Tap Tap Tap

The video below is the actual description of the Cortices Technique , and you will quickly see that we can’t  live without this kind of preventative re-wiring.

In the article “the Practical application of Innate Wisdom in BodyTalk” P.301, which belies his training as a chiropractor, he mixed QM and human development by creating a morphogenic field and ties to explain exactly what is happening when you apply this technique:

“By having intent, focus, and consciousness [sic] awareness of what we are trying to achieve in a BT session, we are now able to collapse that morphogenic formula of probability into the energy body of the patient…To help this along, we use a focusing tool of nature we call the standing wave or soliton. This acts as a catalyst to initiate and focus the collapse.  We create the wave by simply tapping the head and sternum of the patient…Further tapping provides the energy for the reorganisation of the molecules to the changed energy body. In physics, the law is that energy comes first, then matter follows” (p.303)

Again, without as much of a hint of a reference, he pulls this definition out of his arse and with one brief wave of his hand, thinks he has explained how tapping on the sternum and thinking really hard fixes a person in shock.

It is not all just tapping either, the BodyTalk system includes questions that the practitioner asks the body, and listens for the body to tell the practitioner what is wrong, so they can set it straight and “reset the fuse”.

Veltheim claims to use a systems biology theory called Dynamic Systems Theory as the underpinning of this hypothesis and it is obvious that he is just hand waving in the absence of any real proof.  What is very clear in the one reference that Veltheim sites, the Capra catalyst for his adventure, is a rejection of the Newtonian view of the world, in favour of the quantum view of the world.  If Veltheim had done any reading at all of DST, he would have seen Newton’s hands all over it, as Newtonian mechanics is one of the underpinnings of this mathematical system.  Now, I know little beyond what is linked to here about DST, but the linchpin of the entire endeavour, no matter what sub-discipline is described, is the use of differential calculus to describe dynamic systems.  There is nary a integral or derivative to be found in the pages of Veltheim’s research.

It is as if he just made it up.

Vitalism Vs. Materialism

Those who believe the BodyTalk system works also probably believe in other “energy healing” techniques, including reiki, therapeutic touch, acupuncture, applied kinesiology and the like.  This is part of a larger divide between the CAM community and any science after the 1820′s: the belief that there is an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.  It is the absurdity of and the complete lack of evidence for this energy field that should be the focus of our criticism of any modality that purports to detect, interact with and manipulate it  to make you feel better.

John Veltheim may be a believer, and if the tax returns of his foundation are any proof, he is not making a mint promoting it.  At $7200.00 to train at the expert level, it is not that large an investment to open a business. That being said, it is still a waste of money and should not be relied upon for any kind of healing.

After reading the Tao of Physics I turned to more solid and proven science.  Far from Capra’s claim that Newtonian mechanics at the heart of all modern biochemistry, the foundation of first year organic chemistry is the Schrödinger equation and the theory of quantum mechanics. And they have the maths to prove it.  Any time any practitioner claims that their energy work is based on quantum mechanics ask them for the maths: they will not be able to provide them, and instead will tell you a good story. It will be narratively satisfying and full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing more than wishful thinking and a willingness to take your money for a bit of hand waving and a tap.

*As a side note, the Olivia Newton John song Physical came out is 1981, topped the charts into 1982, and Capra’s book was released in 1982. Veltheim, a fellow Australian, surely used them both as his inspiration…”Lemme hear your body talk”  indeed.

**the Journal of Alternative Medicine Research is published by Nova Science Publishers, regarded as nothing more than a vanity publishing house that republished public domain documents and solicited papers directly from author’s previous works with little or no editing required.  See this essay here and a discussion of their solicitation practices here

One Response to “Let’s Get Physical: BodyTalk Baseless”

  1. Deiter says:

    Thank you for posting. Nicely done!

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  • Michael Kruse

    Michael is an advanced-care paramedic in York Region, just north of Toronto, Ontario. A semi-retired theatrical lighting designer as well, he re-trained in 2005 as an EMT-PS at the University of Iowa and as an ACP at Durham College, and is currently working towards a B.Sc at the University of Toronto. Michael is a founder and the chair of the board of directors of Bad Science Watch. He is also the recipient of the first annual Barry Beyerstein Award for Skepticism. Follow Michael on twitter @anxiousmedic. Michael's musings are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer or Bad Science Watch.