Wednesday, February 27, 2013

20th c. healer Bill Gray and the enteric brain as phase monitor (Part 1)

Who was Bill Gray?

Bill Gray was an extremely effective energy healer, who was born in 1895 in Minnesota, and died possibly in 1979 in California.  His full name was William E. Gray, and Ruth Montgomery wrote the only biography of him, “Born to heal,” in 1973, in which she calls him Mr. A in order to protect him from being swamped by supplicants.  He, himself, wrote a short book in 1947, “Know your magnetic field,” in which he shared his understanding of human illness and what he did for it.  There is very little more information available about his life.

Bill Gray was so effective, that the States of Nevada and California (and possibly Arizona and Utah) granted him licenses to practice medicine, even though his schooling had ended at fourth grade, and he had difficulty reading.  In the 1940s, the California Medical Association persuaded the State to prosecute him for fraud.  The sensational trial in Vallejo pushed World War II off the front pages of the area’s newspapers, until he was resoundingly acquitted, with multitudes of his ex-patients pestering his attorneys with their urgent desire to testify on his behalf.

Note:  Quotes below from Bill Gray’s 1947 book refer to him in the third person, because the book was dictated by him to an unnamed nurse, who assisted him by chaperoning and explaining things to patients.  In the book, she also adds a few of her own observations and clarifications to his often vague explanations.

He was unusually successful at using energy healing for neurological problems

Bill Gray was in a class by himself because of his phenomenal ability to work with all illnesses, but he was also in a class by himself because he could work easily with neurological problems, and this appears to be the category of ailment for which energy healing has been least effective. 

Indeed, Montgomery’s biography starts with one neurological healing after another.  Among the neurological (and severe psychological) cures documented in the two books are:

-- a neurological cancer (RM, p. 19)
-- cerebral palsy (RM, p. 28, p. 216, BG, whole chapter with multiple cases)
-- neurological damage from surgery anesthetic (RM, p. 32)
-- spinal menengitis (RM, p. 138)
-- polio (RM, p. 140)
-- TBI causing double vision (TM, p. 146)
-- psychosis, severe mental illness (RM, p. 159, p. 160)
-- Down’s syndrome (p. 202)
-- senility (RM, p. 213)
-- stroke (BG, a whole chapter with multiple cases)
-- vision (BG, p. 75 -- a middle-aged or older man who went for treatment for stroke, got that, but also found his vision getting better, so that he had to get rid of his reading glasses; p. 90 -- a middle-aged woman went for help for severe arthritis, got that, but also found she had to throw away her eye glasses)

Very few energy healers appear to be able to affect neurological problems.  The few that can, have to work much longer to achieve it than they do for other ailments.  Bill Gray was as efficacious and speedy with neurological issues as he was with everything else.

Bill Gray’s understanding of neurological conditions

Not much is known about his understanding of the causes or meanings of neurological conditions as a category.  All we have are a couple of comments.  He reported that, starting in childhood, he received instructions and explanations from a source that he vaguely called the Powers.  When asked by a doctor who studied with him for many years to explain M.S. and related neurological diseases, he replied:  “’As it comes over the air to me, these ailments are caused from prolonged seething and jealousy’” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 149).

The only other generalization he makes about neurological / psychological conditions is:  “There is a very definite sound, a peculiar cluck, in the heart when there is tension [in a nerve] from the brain.  Every case of insanity or mental condition that has come to me has that funny cluck sound in the heart.  When that is released the mind seems to be cleared” (Gray, 1947, p. 43).

Difference between human energy and mechanical EM

Although he said very little about the causes and meanings of neurological ailments as a category, his whole approach to healing was centered on the nervous system, which is unusual for energy healers.

His main technique was to give a person’s own energy frequencies to them, to replenish their supply, and re-open supply lines along the nerves of the nervous system. He didn’t so much fix any particular problem, although he sometimes did that, he more focused on supply of energy.  So, first let’s look at what he meant by energy, and then we’ll look at his view of the nervous system.

It’s not entirely clear what Bill Gray meant by energy.  On the one hand, he says many times that what he calls “human life ray energy” is not the same thing as mechanically-generated electromagnetism.  On the other hand, he uses electrical language all the time to describe what is going on in the body, and, of course, we know the nervous system does use electrical impulses. 

It’s also confusing because a lot of people who experienced Bill’s touch felt an electric charge.  For example, in the early 1970s, when the renowned energy healer Rosalyn Bruyere (see  was starting her studies, and Bill was in his final illness, he mentored her.  “While Bruyere did healings on him, he instructed her.  At one point, she says, he put his hand on her abdomen as she was working on him.  ‘I felt like I had been plugged into a 220-volt socket,’ she says.  Then, he had her try to do the same thing” (Goldner, 1999, p. 116).

Five years after his death, she came to believe that he had endowed her with new abilities.  “Bill passed sound waves on to me.  The electrical current sensation in my hands came from him.  Prior to that time, I was ‘allowing’ energy.  I learned to ‘push’ energy” (Goldner, 1999, p. 116)

Here are some of Bill Gray’s explanations about his use of energy:

“In every paralyzed case he worked on, the energy is partially shut off from the magnetic field [in the abdomen, more explanation of this below] and there is a greater shutoff from a specified relay distributing center  He first sends a charge to the magnetic field [in the abdomen] increasing its energy, thus enabling it to distribute the energy to all parts of the body, and then generates the energy to the specified dormant nerves.  He must open the circuits of the afflicted nerves by increasing the volume or intensity of the energy and putting through a heavy dose to wake up those nerves that haven’t been working properly” (Gray, 1947, p. 53).

“This generated energy is not the same as mechanically generated electrical current” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 53).

“The human energy current is similar to any electrical current and frequency.  It acts only on the human body and vice versa.  The body is not geared to take mechanically generated electrical currents.  The nerves will not retain them.  They act only as shock” (Gray, 1947, p.54).

“’The body is the most sophisticated of all impulse relay machinery.  It combines the systems similar to the automatic telephone, the computers, and other electronic devices.  However, the body functions on human ray energy instead of the standard electrical energy.  To my knowledge, standard electricity shocks the body and is not retained by it.  The body will retain only human ray.  Man hasn’t scratched the surface of this subject yet’” (Montgomery, 1973, pp. 156-7).

So, it’s still not clear whether Bill Gray was transmitting electromagnetic energy solely, or EM in addition to something else, or not transmitting EM at all.  People’s nervous systems may have been reacting to whatever he was doing with an electric-like feeling, and certainly the nervous system uses electrical impulses, but that doesn’t mean he was transmitting EM or only EM.

Elmer Green, PhD, physicist, psychologist, biofeedback pioneer, co-founder of the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine, has said in an interview:  “….whatever the energy is that does the healing, one of its correlates is electrical phenomena. I am not saying that electricity is the cause of the healing. If that were the case you could do it with a battery” (DiCarlo,

It seems possible that Bill Gray was a product of his times, and was using the metaphors of electricity and machinery because that technology was developing in exciting ways during his lifetime.  In fact, he was a machinist in his youth, and this clearly influenced his way of conceptualizing the human body and healing.

Our theories about how psi functions have changed over the last 150 years as our natural science theories and technologies have changed.  Our understanding of psi and “energy healing” is certainly influenced by and possibly limited by our time in history.

For example, Bill Gray doesn’t talk at all about a field effect – whether electromagnetic or morphic or quantum or whatever – and it now seems really likely that the body uses field effects generated by the nervous system and the heart, or by the chakras, or by other possible sources.  (Although he refers to the “magnetic field” in the lower abdomen, he never talks about a field effect, but rather thinks of it as the major relay station for distributing energy along circuits.)

He also doesn’t talk about the role of consciousness or divine plan or pre-birth contracts in the role of illness.  He did espouse astrology insofar as he believed the time of birth to determine what your unique frequency combination was.  He was unabashedly a mechanic of the body as machine, used that language a lot, and thought of himself as a mechanic who was simply used by “the Powers” to provide a supply of people’s own signature energy.

Bill Gray’s focus on the lower abdomen

Perhaps the most intriguing and unique aspect of Bill Gray’s healing model was his focus on the lower abdomen as the location of what he called “the magnetic field,” which was the crux of *all* his treatments.  Note that he entitled his book “Know your magnetic field.”  He believed that the magnetic field in the lower abdomen was the center of the nervous system.

According to him:

“In the lower abdomen, the pelvis, is an intricate system forming the magnetic field, the grouping together of the main trunk nerves and their branches and relay systems extending throughout the entire body.  The lungs draw the energy in but the magnetic field must draw the energy from the lungs in order to radiate it through the body.  We are no stronger than our magnetic field” (Gray, 1947, p. 16).

According to Ruth Montgomery:

“The strange talent with which Mr. A [Bill Gray] was born is the power to rebuild the nervous system, relieve the pressures and tensions, and correct ailments by energizing the magnetic field.  He accomplishes this by placing his fingers over nerves and nerve relay centers, automatically generating the energy complimentary to that of the patient.  As a generator he has the knack of increasing the intensity of the energy to make corrections….” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 53).

Bill Gray called the intricate system of nerves in the lower abdomen “the master brain,” (Gray, 1947, p. 48) and believed it was primary to the brain in the head.  He repeatedly calls the head brain “subsidiary” or “minor” in his 1947 book!

Bill Gray:

“The life force is of electric energy; consequently, the body must be mechanically constructed to conduct, transmit and be activated by the human energy current.  Thought control, thought direction and discrimination are energy impulses supplied from the magnetic field to the subsidiary brain within the skull, thereby causing impulse reaction through the nerves and their relay centers, affecting the movements at will of all parts of the human structure” (Gray, 1947, p. 64).

Even in the case of stroke, he believed that “….the troubles all start in the magnetic field.  The tension builds up in the pelvis….” (Gray, 1947, p. 70).

At least one energy healer who has had some success with neurological problems focused his attention on the head.  Another has said it is necessary to focus on all seven chakras.  Bill Gray is unique in my experience for focuing on the abdomen so much in neurological cases, although, in any given case, he may also direct energy to any part of the body where he perceives a weak link in energy supply, including the head.

In a related sidebar, many, many of his patients spontaneously commented that, as a side effect of his treatment, they felt like they are breathing all the way down into their pelvis for the first time in their lives (Gray, 1947).

Also, in an ironic and curious twist of life narrative, he spent his whole life working with sick people by focusing on their lower abdomens, and he, himself, may have died from abdominal cancer (Goldner, 1999, p. 116), although I have not been able to confirm this from a second source.

Enteric Nervous System

Bill Gray anticipated by several decades the recent recognition that there is an extremely important and independent nervous system in the gut which we now call the enteric nervous system or enteric brain.  Although there was a little bit of 19th c. research suggesting that the gut could function independently of the head brain, it wasn’t until the 1990s that neurogastroenerology really took off. (Gershon, 1999, pp. 2-5)

The enteric nervous system is said to consist of neurons “within the walls of the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, gallbladder and biliary tree…the muscle of the gut wall…,” and related mucosal membranes, blood supply, and tissues (

Note that the inclusion of the biliary tree means the liver is at least sort of included.  Although I have found no explicit mention of the mouth, I don’t see how the system could start in the esophagus and not include the mouth.  As a point of interest, we do know that teeth contain serotonin receptors (Riksen et al., 2010).

The enteric nervous system consists of 100 millon neurons, which is one thousandth the number of neurons in the head brain (Wiki).  It can operate independently of the brain and spinal cord, although, of course, they can also communicate with each other (Wiki; Pasricha, 2011; Brown, 2011).

The enteric brain is astonishingly independent of the head brain and spinal cord (Pasricha, 2011).

“The enteric nervous system has been described as a "second brain". There are several reasons for this. The enteric nervous system can operate autonomously. It normally communicates with the central nervous system (CNS) [ie brain and spinal cord] through the parasympathetic (e.g., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic (e.g., via the prevertebral ganglia) nervous systems. However, vertebrate studies show that when the vagus nerve is severed, the enteric nervous system continues to function” (Wiki).

“In vertebrates the enteric nervous system includes efferent [going away] neurons, afferent [coming in] neurons, and interneurons, all of which make the enteric nervous system capable of carrying reflexes and acting as an integrating center in the absence of CNS input” (Wiki).

At least part of the reason for the enteric brain’s independence is that this is an efficient way to manage an extremely complex part of the body.

"Rather than Mother Nature's trying to pack 100 million neurons someplace in the brain or spinal cord and then sending long connections to the GI tract, the circuitry is right next to the systems that require control," said Jackie D. Wood, professor of physiology, cell biology and internal medicine at Ohio State” (Brown, 2011).

Emeran Mayer, MD, Director, Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women's Health, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, makes the interesting point that the gut is designed to *not* pass along informaton about pain when the individual can’t do anything about it, for example, in the case of a chronic parasitic infection.  In other words, a lot of the neurological information being transmitted in the gut remains unconscious, as opposed to neurological information in the rest of the body (eg pain, heat) which becomes conscious so that behavior will be affected (Mayer, nd).

Michael Gershon, MD, Chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has played a central role in raising the flag about about the neurological nature of the gut.  When he first suggested a few decades ago “that the gut might use some of the same neurotransmitters as the brain, his theory was widely ridiculed,” but his ideas have been borne out (Brown, 2011).

In fact, “90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut, not in your head,” according to Pankaj Pasricha, MD, Chair of Stanford University Medical Center’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, as does half of the body’s dopamine (Pasricha, 2011).

“The enteric nervous system also makes use of more than 30 neurotransmitters, most of which are identical to the ones found in CNS, such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin. More than 90% of the body's serotonin lies in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body's dopamine…” (Wiki).

The head brain and the gut brain share a common source.  They develop out of the same part of the human embryo (Blackwell, nd; Wiki – gastrulation, neural crest).  And Gershon discovered that the same genes involved in synapse formation between neurons in the head brain are involved in the formation of synapses in the enteric brain (Hadhazy, 2010).  Also, “neural stem cells have been found in the gut.  These theorectically have the capacity to develop into all kinds of neurons, not just those in the gut” (Pasricha, 2011).

            Studying problems to understand the relationship between gut and head

Researchers are looking at gut-related illnesses and brain- or mind-related illnesses in order to glean new information about how these two semi-independent neurological centers affect each other, and, of course, how we can use that information to create new solutions.

We all know intuitively that the gut influences the head and the head influences the gut.  Mayer and Barry Blackwell, MD at the University of Wisconsin Medical School have both written about the idea that some people are “gut responders.” People experience anxiety differently physically.  Some experience their emotional distress in their gut more than other people do (Mayer, nd; Blackwell, nd).  This can lead to persistent physical conditions.


“The gut shares many of the same kinds of nerve endings and chemical transmitters as the brain to which it remains linked through a large nucleus (the locus ceruleus).  This collection of nerve cells is partly responsible for controlling anxiety and fear, which explains why these emotions can sometimes be associated with bowel function” (Blackwell, nd).

According to Pasricha, women seem to be more vulnerable to GI problems.  He speculates that this may be due to hormonal differences, or differences in how the nervous system develops, or it could be an artifact of women allowing themselves to seek more health care (Pasricha, 2011).

There seems to be a lot more for us to learn about how the gut brain and the head brain can influence each other.  “Scientific American” writer Adam Hadhazy reports that:  “Cutting-edge research is currently investigating how the second brain mediates the body's immune response; after all, at least 70 percent of our immune system is aimed at the gut to expel and kill foreign invaders” (Hadhazy, 2010).  And Pasricha says that, in the case of Parkinson’s, there are similar changes to the gut neurons as there are to the head neurons.  He speculates that it may turn out to be possible to treat the gut in order to help the head (Pasricha, 2011).

Conversely, we can use the head to help the gut.  Robert Stern, Professor of Psychology at Penn State University did a study that suggested that “biofeedback helped people consciously increase and enhance their gastrointestinal activity. They used the brains in their heads, in other words, to help the brains in their guts, proving that at least some of the time two brains really are better than one” (Brown, 2011).

            Serotonin and the gut

In an informative 2011 New York Times article, Journalism professor Harriet Brown interviews several active neurogastroenterology researchers, and, among other things, elaborates on the role of serotonin in the gut.

“The digestive process begins when a specialized cell, an enterochromaffin, squirts serotonin into the wall of the gut, which has at least seven types of serotonin receptors. The receptors, in turn, communicate with nerve cells to start digestive enzymes flowing or to start things moving through the intestines.

Serotonin also acts as a go-between, keeping the brain in the skull up to date with what is happening in the brain below. Such communication is mostly one way, with 90 percent traveling from the gut to the head”  (Brown, 2011)

Brown explains what happens next:

“In a healthy person, after serotonin is released into the gut and initiates an intestinal reflex, it is whisked out of the bowel by a molecule known as the serotonin transporter, or SERT, found in the cells that line the gut wall.

People with irritable bowel syndrome do not have enough SERT, so they wind up with too much serotonin floating around, causing diarrhea.

The excess serotonin then overwhelms the receptors in the gut, shutting them down and causing constipation” (Brown, 2011).

So, “….it turns out that irritable bowel syndrome, like depression, is at least in part a function of changes in the serotonin system. In this case, it is too much serotonin rather than too little.”  This must be at least one of the reasons why antidepressants (which increase serotonin availability) “cause gastric distress in up to a quarter of the people who take them” (Brown, 2011).

Further disturbing evidence of how antidepressants may harm the gut can be found in a recent study done at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, which suggested that children who had been exposed in utero to antidepressants suffered the teratogenic effect of needing significantly more antidiarrhoeal and laxative medication (Nijenhuis et al., 2012).

Another mechanism being studied is the link between stress, inflammation, and hyperactivity of the gut.

During stress, intestinal walls become more permeable, and bacteria can leak out.  This causes the head brain to activate mast cells which “release histamines and other inflammatory agents, mobilizing the enteric nervous system to expel the perceived intruders, and causing diarrhea” (Brown, 2011).

Chronic mast cell production leads to inflammation.  According to Gary Mawe, Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Vermont, “inflammation makes the sensory neurons in the gut fire more often, causing a kind of sensory hyperactivity.”  He adds, "I have a theory that some chronic disorders may be caused by something like attention deficit disorder in the gut” (Brown, 2011).

Phase Monitor

And now back to Bill Gray.  For some reason, he spoke more about energy from the environment entering the body through the air coming into the lungs than through the food entering the GI tract, although he did say it was important for food energy to not be “distorted” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 212). 

However, it is also very interesting to note that he had to be excruciatingly organic in the food he ate, or he else would throw up.  He said that, prior to WWII, he traveled the country eating out everywhere, but starting then food began to be so loaded with preservatives, chemicals, and hormones, that he could no longer tolerate it.  He would throw up immediately.  If he were, say, a guest of well-intentioned people who thought they were serving him organic food, and he threw up, it was always discovered that the source of the food was not as impeccable as his hosts had thought.  He had to go to considerable lengths to acquire, stock up on, and then travel with his own food (Montgomery, 1973, pp. 201-211).

And, as we have seen, he placed primary importance on the centralized network of neurons in the lower abdomen in his approach to healing everything, including disorders of the head brain.

While I was working on this essay, the term “phase monitor” came into my head.  I Googled it, and, even after reading about it, I still don’t remember having learned about it before, nor do I understand it very well yet, so I don’t know how it came to me.

A phase monitor is somewhat similar to a circuit breaker.  A phase monitor is a device that monitors voltage fluctuations that could cause damage to equipment if they got out of hand.  It is particularly for use in electrical systems that use three conductors.  This is called a three-phase system.  (Thanks to my car mechanic Dave for his help in understanding the term!)

Most of the world’s power grids use a three-phase system.  This method of moving electricity was independently invented by Nikola Tesla, Galileo Ferraris, and Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky in the late 1880s.  Electricity moves in waves, so there is a fluctuation in how it arrives.  In order to make electric power more continuous, they send it over three different wires, and each is out of step with the others by a third of a cycle.  So, first the electricity on one wire reaches the peak of its wave, then the electricity on the second wire reaches the peak of its wave, and then the electricity on the third wire reaches the peak of its wave.  And, thus, you have virtually continuous electrical energy arriving at your house (Wiki).

So, a phase monitor tells you if the voltage gets too high or low, and also if the three wires get out of phase, meaning they’re not peaking at the right moment or in the right sequence.

Now, here’s the interesting thing.  Bill Gray’s speciality was discerning the particular “energy” signature of each individual and simply supplying them with more of their own particular blend of energy.  Specifically, he said that each person’s energy pattern is created by the interaction of three waves.  These three waves establish the nature of that person’s “magnetic field” in their abdomen (Montgomery, 1973, p. 50).  He likened each person’s combination of frequencies to the uniqueness of a fingerprint (Gray, 1947, p. 53).

When Bill Gray was asked what the energy was that he used and that recipients felt, he said, “It is life ray-human energy on individual wavelengths.  To my knowledge there are thirty-six different frequencies.  Each individual operates on three waves at different frequencies making numerous combinations of magnetic field control” (Gray, 1947, p. 14).

Note the similarity between the industrial phase monitor and Bill Gray’s conceptualization of the human abdomen.  Both regulate a three-wave energy system.  The difference seems to be that with electricity delivered to your house, the three waves of energy are supposed to have the same voltage and frequency and are supposed to be in phase (synchronized), whereas with the “energy” delivered to your abdomen, it sounds like the three waves of energy usually have different frequencies, and we don’t know yet if they need to be in phase.

Might the enteric brain serve as a sort of phase monitor for the whole body, but most importantly the head brain?  Might it serve a regulatory and protective role?

Bill Gray certainly believed that the “magnetic field” in the lower abdomen was the “master brain” that regulated everything, including the head brain.  He believed that problems – including in the head brain – occurred when the magnetic field was not getting fed an adequate supply of its particular energy blend, and then sending it on throughout the body. 

And, neurogastroenterologists today are also discovering how much the enteric brain does besides digest food.  They, too, are looking at how problems – including in the head brain – may originate in or be significantly contributed to by problems in the gut.

Here is an example, according to Bill Gray, of how the enteric brain can get overwhelmed and thus lose the ability to regulate and protect the head brain --

“A stroke has its origin in the magnetic field [abdomen].  One or more of the main feeders is put into spasm from a variety of causes.  This spasm continues without relief to the point where the nerve or nerves cannot take it any longer.  One violent seizure occurs and the nerves are paralyzed.

The spasm in the pelvis, the magnetic field, creates a terrific nerve tension, causing pressure.  The nerves can stand only so much pressure.  When they reach capacity they will short out.  The electric nerve lines from the magnetic field to the subsidiary brain [head] are overloaded from the pressure and the weakest spot on those lines is the subsidiary brain nerves.  When the pressure becomes too great, a fuse blows out.  Just as an ordinary light fuse severs the lead by melting, so the brain accident occurs.  The fuse in the brain tissue ruptures and severs the nerve line, disrupting the circuit.  A degree of paralysis is the result” (Gray, 1947, p. 69).

So, we might say that stroke is one type of neurological problem that can occur when the enteric brain becomes overwhelmed in its role as phase monitor to the head brain.  Note that he says the weakest spot in the network is in the head brain nerves.  This supports the idea that the gut brain might serve a protective function.

And here is a more recently learned physiological fact that is suggestive of how the enteric brain may regulate the head brain --

Serotonin also acts as a go-between, keeping the brain in the skull up to date with what is happening in the brain below. Such communication is mostly one way, with 90 percent traveling from the gut to the head”  (Brown, 2011)

Let’s look at another type of neurological problem that can occur, and speculate about what Bill Gray might have said about it if it had existed in his lifetime. 

Dysautonomia in SSRI antidepressant withdrawal

SSRI antidepressants increase the availability of serotonin in the head and in the gut, and, as we’ve already learned, they “cause gastric distress in up to a quarter of the people who take them” (Brown, 2011).  The effect on serotonin has a cascading effect on other neurotransmitters.  The whole body changes in response to the medication. 

When you remove the medication, the whole body has to adjust again, and some people go through a long period of physiological chaos in trying to re-equilibrate.  There is dysautonomia or dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system.  Historically, the functions of the gut have been included in the list of what the autonomic nervous system does. However, as mentioned above, the mounting evidence for the gut’s independence from the brain and spinal chord is also leading some people to think it’s fruitful to think of the enteric nervous system as significantly independent of the autonomic nervous system as well. 

Of course, none of these systems are totally independent, and they all influence each other.  But, we are trying to understand why one of the most phenomenal energy healers of all time focused so intently on the lower abdomen, and trying to see what more we can deduce from that.

So, what might Bill Gray have said about dysautonomia caused by modern day antidepressants?  And does the metaphor of the phase monitor help?  Remember the phase monitor tells you not only if there is too much energy or too little, but whether the three conductors are in phase, that is, synchronized with each other.

Bill Gray on “energy spasms”

Well, interestingly, Bill Gray did talk about energy “spasms” in the human body.  Mostly, he talked about supplying a quantity of energy, but several times he also referred to quieting an energy spasm.  He was not refering to a physical muscular or visceral spasm, but rather to spasms of energy passing through nerves.

In diagnosing a patient, he would listen at the chest, and:  “As he listens, the vibrations have revealed to him the body tensions and the location of nerve centers which are in spasm” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 14).

At one point, discussing how others with strong energy could be trained to do some of what he does, he says –

“This is the individual best fitted to heal others, and who could be taught to direct the energy through his or her hands, feeding nerves and releasing spasms, but only to those having energy frequencies complementary to each oher.  Otherwise, an energy short may result” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 15).

Again, discussing how stroke originates in the abdominal magnetic field –

“But he emphasizes that it could be avoided by previously releasing the spasm that has built up in the magnetic field, through feeding human energy current to the proper area.  He makes it sound as simple as repairing an electric line…”  (Montgomery, 1973, pp. 16-17).

In explaining what human “energy” is, and what it is that he provides –

“This generated energy is not the same as mechanically generated electrical current.  He says that the body is not geared to accept the latter, which the nerves will not retain and which acts as a shock to them.  To rebuild nerves, to relax spasms and feed the required energy fuel, the energies of the generator [a person] must match or synchronize with those of the patient” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 53).

In a case of a woman with a chronic, mystery stomach ailment, Bill Gray specifically said that “nerve spasming” was preventing her from drawing in sufficient energy to her system.  This is him speaking to Montgomery –

“With the spasm and tension released she could breathe deeply, bring a full supply of her own energy wave into her magnetic field, and send this energy to her entire nervous system, which relieved all pain.  Simple, isn’t it?” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 59).

I wish I could ask him for clarification, but it sounds like he saw the cause of illness as being not only due to insufficient quantity of “energy” (overall, and localized in the body), but also due to spasms in energy.  Problems can come from energy not flowing smoothly, not synchronized – perhaps not in phase.

Remember, we are not talking about visceral spams in the gut.  (It is beginning to look – thanks to both Bill Gray and modern neurogastroenterology – like the enteric brain is about far, far more than digestion.)  We are talking about the behavior of a still undefined “energy” that may be related to EM, but not necessarily.

Stormy weather

It might be good to clarify that we are looking at a different level of causality from the biochemical mechanisms of the body. 

For example, we’re pretty sure that serotonin receptor sites on neurons get downregulated by prolonged antidepressant use, and that, when you stop taking the antidepressant, this is part of the problem – you now have fewer serotonin receptors than you did before.  And, this is part of what causes physiological dysregulation such as dysautonomia.  This is a physical, mechanical level of causal explanation.

But the focus of this essay is a level where some animating force operates that humans have talked about for millenia, but that we are still struggling to understand now.  Bill Gray called it “energy” and spoke of “frequencies.”  He had been a machinist in his early life, and talked proudly of being a mechanic in his healing work.  Some people refer to “subtle energies.”  I lean toward thinking of this force as “consciousness,” and it’s very thought-provoking to translate Bill Gray’s claim of there being 36 frequencies into 36 types of consciousness!

Furthermore, there is a lot of thought that body, mind, and spirit operate using field effects.  A field effect refers to some force influencing objects within a certain range without touching them.  We know the head brain and heart produce EM fields that can affect other people.  We suspect that the field of consciousness extends beyond the brain.  And some people say the body could only operate as fast as it does and in such synchronization if there was a field effect at work.  (See Rupert Sheldrake, Heartmath Institute, Deepak Chopra, Gregg Braden.)

So, although we could explain an antidepressant-dysregulated nervous system at the mechanical biochemical level, in this essay we are looking at it at the level of “energy” and field effect. 

At that level, the dysregulation seen in dysautonomia from antidepressants might be thought of as an energy storm.  A phase monitor’s purpose is to detect energy out of phase or unsynchronized.  So, we could speculate that when the enteric brain is damaged by antidepressants, it becomes less able to protect the head brain.  You get the kind of nerve energy spasms that Bill Gray talks about.  And the result, in this case, is a kind of energy storm in the entire nervous system.

Interestingly, there is a medical term called an autonomic storm.  “An autonomic storm is the massive increase in sympathetic nervous activity that might simply be called a hyper-stress response due to an insult to the brain or brainstem” (

One type of autonomic storm is caused by serotonin syndrome.  Serotonin syndrome is caused by excess serotonergic activity brought on by overdose or interaction of serotonergic drugs (Wiki).

There are other kinds of storms that can happen.  A cytokine storm is an excessive immune reaction (  An adrenergic storm is an sudden and dramatic increase in the production of adrenal chemicals (Wiki).

All of the above storms are life-threatening, and I am not in any way suggesting that the dysautonomia caused by antidepressant withdrawal is life-threatening.  Rather, it is a milder version of the more extreme storms.

All of these storms are correlated with gut problems.  Traditionally, the causality has been seen as the storms impacting the gut, but perhaps the enteric brain creates the conditions for the storms more than we have realized.  Clearly, a blunt force injury to the head is the culprit when that preceeds an autonomic storm, but still perhaps we have not focused enough on the enteric brain’s potential to heal the insult.  

(Epilepsy and abdominal epilepsy are also types of storms that can occur.)

Apparently, there can also be sleep storms or REM storms.  These terms don’t appear to be used very much any more.  Rapid eye movement periods during sleep seem to involve a burst of neurological activity, and sometimes the REM can be particularly intense and has been called a storm (; Becker, 1982).

Interestingly, the gut seems to exhibit something akin to REM –

“During sleep, the head’s brain produces 90-minute cycles of slow wave sleep, followed by periods of rapid eye movement (REM) where dreams occur. During the night, when it is empty, the gut’s brain produces 90-minute slow wave muscle contractions, followed by short bursts of rapid muscle movement. These two brains are linked even in sleep. Individuals with bowel problems have been shown to also have abnormal REM sleep” (

So, it looks like there may be a spectrum of stormy weather in the body, ranging from the normal, short storms that we cycle through all day, to the disabling, but not permanent,  storm of antidepressant-induced dysautonomia, to the life-threatening autonomic and cytokine storms.  You can see how there would be a role for a phase monitor to keep energy flowing smoothly and in a coordinated way, and to avoid “energy spasms.”  Storms are always an attempt at re-regulation.

Bill Gray believed that literal, environmental, atmospheric weather storms had an impact on the human energy system.  It is not entirely clear whether he is refering to EM energy in electrical storms, or his “human ray energy” or both --

“In my opinion,” he replied, “as it is explained to me over the air it is simply the result of atmospheric life energy storms….This sets up a turbulence in the human energy patterns which I call energy storms, and when the human condensing system is not strong enough to protect the magnetic field from the jolt of the distorted energy, the field goes into spasm….Also, atmospheric human wave storms can disturb the human energy patterns, resulting in backaches and other minor physical problems, when the body’s energy is only moderately depleted and not completely optimal” (Montgomery, 1973, p. 148).

Healing the head brain via the gut brain

So, to speculate, if the enteric brain operates like a phase monitor for the whole body, but especially the head brain, and if antidepressants cause damage to the enteric brain, and if energy becomes out of phase in the enteric brain (magnetic field in lower abdomen), and if this contributes to the perpetuation of post-antidepressant dysautonomia, then maybe we haven’t been focusing enough on the gut to heal antidepressant damage.  What can we do about that since we are not Bill Gray?

The important thing to keep in mind is that we are suspecting that the gut may do a lot more than just digest food; it may be doing a lot at the energic level.  But, we might be able to help it function energetically by helping it heal neurologically and viscerally.  In Part 2 of this essay, we will focus on the neurological angle.  Here, we will briefly discuss the visceral angle.

Virtually everyone who takes antidepressants for awhile and then discontinues them develops some kind of problem of the GI tract – heartburn, GERD, difficulty swallowing, hemorrhoids, IBS, diarrhea, constipation, gas, new food allergies and sensitivities, chronic nausea, depression or anxiety after eating, autonomic dysregulation after eating, etc.

Many of us experiment on ourselves with a myriad of conventional and alternative treatments, but I, for one, have thought of the goal as being primarily to ease discomfort, and secondly to improve absorption of nutrients.  What if it is even more important than that to improve the functioning of one’s gut in antidepressant recovery?  If I had thought that improving the functioning of my viscera might be a way in to healing the enteric brain and thus the head brain, I would have put a lot more effort into it.  Remember how seriously Bill Gray took his own digestive health!

People find a variety of gentle treatments helpful, depending on their particular circumstances – probiotics, ginger, peppermint, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera juice, lemon, baking soda, bitters, digestive enzymes, fiber, eating smaller meals more frequently, removing poorly tolerated foods even if they gave you no trouble your whole life until now!, acupuncture, exercise, etc.

In addition to getting the whole GI tract to function as well as possible, one avenue worth further exploration for repairing the enteric brain is detox.  Remember, we read earlier that:  “Cutting-edge research is currently investigating how the second brain mediates the body's immune response; after all, at least 70 percent of our immune system is aimed at the gut to expel and kill foreign invaders” (Hadhazy, 2010). 

As I’ve trawled the world of chronic illness, it appears that many roads lead to detox, even when that is not the main intention.  Many things have a detoxifying effect -- switching to a vegetarian or raw food diet, antioxidant supplements, digestive enzymes, grounding / earthing, any kind of body work, acupuncture, exercise, etc.  And this is not even mentioning the many methods – ranging from gentle to extreme – that people use to detox intentionally.  Detox may have another benefit beyond cleansing the body and improving digestion – it may improve the enteric brain’s ability to function as Bill Gray said it did at the energetic level.

What evolution has to tell us about the enteric brain

In trying to make the case that the enteric brain is far more important than has been realized, let us conclude by looking at what evolution has to tell us.  We will focus on two points – the enteric brain is evolutionarily older and more essential than the head brain, and there are beginning to be indications that the enteric brain does far more than digestion.

An enteric brain has been found in primitive life forms to whom we are phylogenetically related --

“The enteric brain is ancient in evolutionary terms and probably antedates the CNS.  It has been discovered in a sea cucumber….It was believed that the nervous system of echinoderms consisted of only a ring of nervous tissue but recent research shows that echinoderms have a sophisticated enteric nervous system….[And another creature called the sea squirt] reabsorbs its central brain when it transitions from larval  to adult form.    At the same time it develops its visceral ganglion, the term for a primitive enteric brain.  The metamorphosis is a sensible adaptation to a change in lifestyle, analogous to trading in scuba equipment for skis after moving from Barbados to Colorado. The larval sea squirt is motile and needs a CNS to direct motion.  The primary activity of the adult sessile form is eating. Recent genomic work on the sea squirt, Ciona Intestinalis, may reveal more detail of the evolution of the enteric nervous system” (

And for ontogenetic reasons, too, the enteric brain has been more valuable being independent from the head brain than being subsumed by it --

“In evolutionary terms, it makes sense that the body has two brains, said Dr. David Wingate, a professor of gastrointestinal science at the University of London and a consultant at Royal London Hospital. "The first nervous systems were in tubular animals that stuck to rocks and waited for food to pass by," according to Dr. Wingate…."As life evolved, animals needed a more complex brain for finding food and sex and so developed a central nervous system. But the gut's nervous system was too important to put inside the newborn head with long connections going down to the body," says Wingate. Offspring need to eat and digest food at birth. Therefore, nature seems to have preserved the enteric nervous system as an independent circuit inside higher animals. It is only loosely connected to the central nervous system and can mostly function alone, without instructions from topside” (King, nd). 

Lastly, there is some indication that the enteric brain has life-preserving functions that go beyond digestion.

Here, UCLA professor Emeran Mayer again remarks that the enteric brain predates the head brain, and then goes on to propose that the mechanisms of approach and avoidance may have originated in the enteric brain, and then been incorporated into the head brain and spinal cord.  Finally, he makes the provocative suggestion that parts of the brain and spine may be thought of as “encephalized” portions of the enteric brain.  In other words, parts of the head brain are outposts of the gut brain.

“From an evolutionary standpoint, it is clear that the enteric nervous system (ENS) is not uniquely human or even mammalian: homologues of an ENS are found throughout the animal kingdom, including in insects, snails and marine polyps.  It has been suggested that the ganglia that form the primitive brains of helminths, and eventually the brains of higher mammals, were derived from the more primitive but homologous enteric nerve circuits. Thus, neural circuitries and transmitter systems that have evolved to assure optimal responses (approach and withdrawal responses) to the challenges presented by our internal — for example, luminal [intestinal cavities] — environment may have been incorporated into the CNS during evolution. Developmentally, the ENS arises from precursor cells that migrate from the neural crest along the vagus to settle and differentiate in the gut. Based on its close bidirectional connections with limbic and autonomic regions of the brain, the ENS can be viewed as a peripheral extension of the limbic system into the gut, where it is exposed closely to our complex internal environment, including powerful mechanical, chemical and microbial influences. Alternatively, parts of the CNS (in particular, pontine, autonomic and limbic circuits) can be viewed as an encephalized portion of the ENS”  (Mayer, 2011).

It’s easy to underestimate the enteric brain.  It *does* do digestion, and it’s easy to think that’s what it’s all about.  But evolutionary studies and neurogastroenterology are suggesting that it has a more important role than we have realized in assessing and responding to the environment, processing emotion, and influencing the head brain.  Note that it may well be possible to have problems in the enteric brain without it showing up as GI symptoms.

What if there is even more to discover about the importance of the enteric brain?  What if, in losing track of Bill Gray and his theory about the “magnetic field” in the lower abdomen we have lost track of a rich approach to healing?  What if the enteric brain – simpler (with fewer neurons) but far more ancient than the head brain -- is, indeed, the lynchpin of our health?

As Mayer says, “The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon" (Brown, 2011).

Second Chakra:  “Swadhisthana”

You may have noticed by now that we are talking about a part of the body that corresponds to the location of the second chakra.  The origins of the chakra system are lost in prehistory and seem to be found all over the world (

The Sanskrit name for the second chakra is “Swadhisthana,” which means “one’s own abode” (Wiki).  A quick Google suggests that this chakra is associated with –

-- emotions
-- pleasure, sensuality, passion
-- gut instinct
-- creativity
-- water
-- orange
-- sweet taste
-- accesses enteric nervous system
-- relationship attachments and antipathies – shaped by the family of origin (Ramsden, 2013)
-- over-attachment to the past and to addictions
-- self-worth, self-criticism, guilt, worthiness (Groberg, 2012).

You can see how some of these qualities jibe with things Bill Gray and neurogastroenterologists have said. 

Maybe some of the remaining qualities are clues to what we will discover about the enteric brain in the future!


Note:  If you have any other information about Bill Gray, I would really appreciate it if you would contact me!



Becker, P.T. & Thoman, E.B.  Intense rapid eye movements during active sleep: an index of neurobehavioral instability.  Developmental Psychobiology, 15 (3):  203-10.

Blackwell, B.  (nd).  Are you a gut responder?  Hints on coping with an irritable bowel.  International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

Brown, H.  (2011).  The other brain also deals with many woes.  New York Times, 11 Oct 11.

DiCarlo, R.E.  (nd).  “The copper wall experiment.”

Gershon, M.  (1999.)  The second brain:  a groundbreaking new understanding of nervous disorders of the stomach and intestine.  New York:  HarperPerennial.

Goldner, D.  (1999).  Infinite grace:  Where the worlds of science and spiritual healing meet. Charlottesville, VA:  Hampton Roads Publishing Company.

Gray, W.E.  (1947/2011).  Know your magnetic field.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Groberg, J.  (2012).  Five signs your second chakra is weak.

Hadhazy, A.  (2010).  Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being.  Scientific American, 12 Feb 10.

King, R.  (nd).  The enteric nervous system:  The brain in the gut.

Mayer, E.A.  (2011).  Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut–brain communication.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12:  453-466.

Mayer, E.  (nd).  Visceral sensations and brain-gut mechanisms.  International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

Montgomery, R.  (1973).  Born to heal.  New York:  Fawcett Crest.

Nijenhuis, C.M., ter Horst, P.G., van Rein, N., Wilffert, B., & de Jong-van den Berg LT.  (2012).  Disturbed development of the enteric nervous system after in utero exposure of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. Part 2: Testing the hypotheses.  British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 73 (1):  126-34.

Pasricha, P.  (2011).  Video on the enteric nervous system.  Stanford University Medical Center.

Ramsden, D.  (2013).  The second chakra.

Riksen EA, Stunes AK, Kalvik A, Gustafsson BI, Snead ML, Syversen U, Lyngstadaas SP, & Reseland JE.  (2010).  Serotonin and fluoxetine receptors are expressed in enamel organs and LS8 cells and modulate gene expression in LS8 cells.  European Journal of Oral Science, 118:  566-73.


  1. "Very few energy healers appear to be able to affect neurological problems. The few that can, have to work much longer to achieve it than they do for other ailments. Bill Gray was as efficacious and speedy with neurological issues as he was with everything else."

    Fascinating, Sheila. I read only a part of the entire post, but I will read all of it as soon as possible. What I can say now already, is that it offers an amazing amount of hope for people suffering from the damage psychoactive drugs have caused to their bodies. For a long long time now, I have been having this strong intuitive feeling that this is the way to go. No more reductionist models of the current medicine", the system designed to bring more destruction than help, but treating it holistically... We are the energy after all... :)

    Thank you for this great post.

    1. Thanks very much, Luc! I think you might like Larry Dossey's model about Era III medicine -- the wave of the future --

      It *is* all about the energy! :)

  2. Sheila- thanks for your detailed article. It's a couple years old and I hope you check in on comments still! Along with a colleague I've been developing a form of energy work that works with and within the nervous system patterned on Bill Gray's work. Both of us are students of Rosalyn Bruyere who had contact with Bill and transmission from him. We've been using many of his principles in our work. You might wish to check out our approach at pathwaysforhealing dot com
    Hope you found some healing for your own concerns and thanks again for your contribution to exploring these curious and powerful forms of work.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and well wishes, Jim. I don't know if you saw there's also an interview with Rosalyn Bruyere on this blog, as well as a second essay about Bill Gray. I did see your good work and your thought-provoking website when I was researching Bill Gray back in 2013. I was very glad to see that someone is continuing his legacy. It's bizarre to me that he has fallen into such obscurity. But I know this is true of some other stellar healers as well, such as mid-century Englishman Ted Fricker. There is a lot of resistance to wonderful healing! Please keep going with your work!

  3. Nice to see Western similarities of Eastern Qigong methods and concepts. The main energy for Qigong methods comes from the lower dan tien which is located in the lower abdomen. And the energy pathways, meridians. Many more similar concepts and experiences between the two.

    1. Good point about the dan tien! Why didn't I include that in this essay?!

      It sure is significant that the Chinese came up with the dan tien and located the creation of chi there, and the Indians came up with the Swadhisthana chakra and called it the seat of prana, and Bill Gray, who got guidance from childhood on, came up with the "magnetic field" as the location where "life force energy" enters the body and then spreads out along neural pathways.

      I just re-read the essay, and I'm still struck by how counterintuitive it seems for the lower abdomen to be control central. I would expect it to be the brainstem. Or maybe the first or seventh chakra. And I'm also struck by how this information is still not widely known. What does this mean?

      Then, from a cosmic, teleological perspective, what does it mean that vast numbers of people are now taking SSRIs, which target serotonin in the head, yet 90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut? It's like trying to use a drone to kill a single terrorist, and ending up destroying a whole hospital instead.

      Lastly, what does it mean that very few energy healers appear to be able to affect neurological problems, and the few that can have to work much longer to achieve it than they do for other ailments, yet Bill Gray was speedy and efficacious with neuro problems and he did so by focusing on the lower abdomen???

      You know, it takes some people a long time to heal from SSRI exposure. It takes a few people an extremely long time to heal, and we appear to stall in our healing. Theoretically, we shouldn't stall, since neuroplasticity is infinite, and should be responding to all the healthy protocols we follow. I've researched the possibility that BDNF production has become blocked. If I look at these highlights from the essay again now, we could reframe the problem and say that the SSRI damages serotonin production in the gut such that the gut cannot process or produce as much chi / prana / "life force energy." And, thus, healing is stalled. So, maybe we should consider an activity or treatment that focuses on increasing chi in the gut -- not with the goal of helping GI symptoms per se, but rather with the goal of infusing chi into the system at the location which might be most efficacious for healing neuro problems.

      I just looked up a few acupressure points in the lower abdomen, and, sure enough, they "revive the body's healing processes"! Also, I wonder if it would make sense to re-try infrared light therapy again, this time focusing on the lower abdomen instead of on the head and neck.