what is chromotherapy?

We are in the midst of designing souljym. At least one of the meditation spaces will include aspects of chromotherapy. So I thought I would share what I have learned about chromotherapy. First what is chromotherapy? A scientist might describe chromotherapy as a method of treatment that uses the visible spectrum (colors) of electromagnetic radiation to cure diseases[1].  Whereas a nonscientist might describe it as the science of using colors to adjust body vibrations to frequencies that result in health and harmony.  Color is used as an energetic vibration therapy that can be used to re-calibrate your body and can be used as an alternative or complimentary treatment modality.  How can color be used to treat diseases?  Before I answer that in next week’s post, I thought it would be interesting to know some things about the history of chromotherapy.  It is a fascinating.   


Did you know that chromotherapy was studied throughout history?  Ancient civilizations would bathe in treatment alcoves that filtered the sun through tinted glass panels.  This made the earliest Venetian glass makers in demand and why you see so many of their glass panels in cathedrals.  It was said that those exposed to the light filtered through those stained-glass panels experienced peace and harmony which brought about unparalleled healing.  I just thought they were there for art and decoration.


Late in the nineteenth century produced many chromotherapy inventions and research.  Most notable and influential was Dr. Edwin Babbitt’s “The Principles of Light and Color.”  He theorized about color in terms of atoms and electromagnetic waves (remember this was before Einstein’s famous theory).  The most interesting invention was from physician John Harvey Kellogg, he invented an ultraviolent lamp that could be swallowed to treat problems of the throat.  However, most of work during this time was often based more on the spiritualist beliefs of the times than on therapeutic evidence.  This later gave rise to the scientific works of Danshah Ghadiali (1933) and Harry Riley Spitler (1941).


Dinshah Ghadiali began conducting research on the healing properties of color and saved a woman who was severely ill with dysentery through applications of indigo light.  Building on the notion of Babbitt’s earlier theories, he created the Spectro-Chrome and was able to establish through the new science of spectroscopy that elements of the periodic table each emitted specific colors.  From there he was able to create treatment protocols based on color.  He used standardized tinted glass filters to treat different diseases.  This became well known and widely adopted until the early 1940s.


Now Spitler took a different approach with color therapy by using color on the eyes.  He was the first researcher that focused on reestablishing the equilibrium of the autonomic nervous system.  He developed the Syntonizer device the stimulated the eyes with different colors.  This system was used primarily with optometrists with great success.


So what happened to this research?  How come we don’t hear of the works of Ghadiali and Spitler or other research that expanded their theories and inventions?  Well, you are not going to like it, it has to do with the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the emerging pharmaceutical industry at the beginning of the 20th century.  Let me take you back to a time when new pharmaceuticals companies were popping up.  It is a period where the battle of chemistry vs. metaphysics shifted toward the chemists.  


In 1910, the new magnates of the pharmaceutical companies collectively financed a publication titled “Flexner Report” which was aimed to discredit all therapeutic approaches considered unscientific including naturopathy and homeopathy which meant light therapy.  Through a series of events by the FDA and pharmaceutical lobbyists, the majority of practices involving light therapy became illegal.  Harry Riley Spitler was forced to close his school and his Syntonizer Light device was declared illegal and banned from interstate distribution.  While Ghadiali was pursued through the court system a couple of times.  He survived the first case with the help of testimonies of physicians that were using his techniques.  Such as the one from a surgeon named Kate Baldwin, “After 37 years of active hospital and private practice in medicine and surgery, I produce quicker and more accurate results using Spectro-Chrome that with any other methods, and there was less strain on the patient.”  In his second case, patients he had treated and claimed success demonstrated to the court another outcome.  Thus, he lost his second case and was forced to close his institute and destroy all his books, documents and research papers.  I should also note that Dinshah didn’t do himself any favors and went out of his way to attract the wrath of the medical establishment.  He went to war against them where he might had fared better had he tried to understand the basis of the beneficial effects of light he was just beginning to uncover in his research.  Instead he ended up destroying and erasing all traces of his life’s work.


By the 1950s, most outlets for the practice of light therapy had disappeared from hospitals and clinics throughout the world and those that remained did so covertly.  This incidence of how our beliefs can shift is illustrated by this:  a 1927 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association touted “light is to health and happiness as darkness is to disease and despair” wherein in 2000 the same journal claimed “The therapeutic efficacy for infrared, ultraviolet, and low energy therapies has not be sufficiently established to permit recommendation.”  Thus obliterating 150 years of medical treatments using therapeutic light.


Is the battle between chemistry and metaphysics over?  Well not exactly.  There are over 1,300 syntonic optometrists that are carrying on the work of Harry Rile Spitler.  The son of Dinshah Ghadiali continues the work of his father and there are other researchers reviving the Spectro-Chrome system.  They are looking at lights systems that were not available to Ghadiali himself.  In addition, NASA and the Russian counterpart were looking at the benefits of light therapy and portable light instruments for astronauts to use in space.  The FDA has also clear some chromotherapy devices like the Bioptron.


If you lump light therapy with that of other energy modality research, you will see a shift in the battle of chemistry vs. metaphysics.  As noted in Biologists James Oschman (2015) book “Energy Medicine:  The Scientific Basis,” the amount of research carried out on the energetic properties of life has already attained such critical mass that it has now become impossible for any reasonable scientist to ignore this field of inquiry, so the scientific community is gradually being forced to shift. 


I summarized a lot of the history from Anadi Martel’s book, “Light Therapies, A Complete Guide to the Healing Power of Light.”  Anadi Martel is a trained physicist and is President of the International Light Association.  I have reached out to him for advice on creating the color therapy room for souljym and he graciously shared some ideas.  He indicated that the energetic influence of light is destined to assume a place of growing importance in the near future. 


As with any journey, the use of complementary or alternative medicine such as color therapy is a personal choice.  It is a tenant of souljym that you have the freedom to choose.  We just want to provide you with information that may be useful in deciding to try it or open the door to do your own research.  Regardless, I thought the history was interesting and on some level there may be something to using color to heal. In an upcoming post, the healing aspects of color will be explored.

[1] Azeemi ST, Raza SM. A critical analysis of chromotherapy and its scientific evolution. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(4):481-8.

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