Editorial: Sun Gazing – A Modern Practice
Sun Gazing – A Modern Practice
A modern craze in alternative health claims that people can obtain, “Super human powers,” with alleged, “NASA supported research.” The practice in question has been dubbed ‘sun gazing,’ which also seems to have taken the fitness community by storm as a dietary alternative to salads and portion control. On a scale from zero to Oprah, it once even found brief popularity on the Livestrong site. It sounds incredible, but what is sun gazing?
Sun gazing – What is it?
Sun gazing (also called “sun eating” or “HRM“) is practiced by ‘dieters’, ‘spiritualists’ and the undiscerningly-curious.
The credulous claims of benefits received from sun gazing range from ‘miraculous’ fasting to mental ‘telepathy’ and even ‘teleportation.’ Some ‘gazers even claim to see and become ancient spiritual leaders, or obtain the ability to “fly” of their own accord; Not like yogic flying or ‘hopping’ but actual flight like the comic character Superman.
How is ‘Sun Gazing’ supposed to work?
Since scholarly resources on this aren’t very abundant, Haunted Skeptic consulted the internet for an ‘expert’ on the topic. Who better to tell us than a licensed, board-certified physician?
Dr. Mitchell Gibson is member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. According to his website, he’s also a self-professed psychic medium listed in the “Akashic Who’s Who of Psychics, Healers, Mediums” being “the only physician to win the highest award ever granted by the American Federation of Astrologers“, as well as listed in “Best Psychic Directory” for North America.
With Sun gazing, Dr. Gibson claims, one must begin by gradual exposure during the sunrise/sunset’s low daylight hours whilst maintaining direct barefoot contact with the Earth.
He too, claims that the practice of sun gazing was funded by NASA and studied clinically at the University of Pennsylvania in an article on his blog entitled, “An Enlightened Perspective”, which begins with, “Ever wanted to be in more than one place at a time? That’s right, I’m talking about the super-human abilities that can be gained by those who follow the protocol for what’s known as sun-gazing.”
From a physiological standpoint, Gibson claims that the brain of a successful sun gazing practitioner (which he dubs “the HRM’s brain“) spontaneously “regenerates gray cells.” He also claims that sun gazing directly counters aging, whereby it increases the size of the pineal gland over time as it becomes “activated” through the act of standing around barefoot during these blazing retinal episodes. He goes on to attribute the alleged miracle of pineal gigantism as a direct result of sun gazing, as well as claims of super-fasting correlated to spontaneous human flight.
Cue reassuring statements promising safety to only skilled-practitioners that are ‘true believers.’
As an aside, Gibson recommends to, “consult your doctor” before beginning any rigorous sun gazing regimen.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, featuring the B-movie classic “Puma Man.”
“He has the power to rear-project major cities” – Michael J Nelson
So, Gibson may be no neurobiologist, but still— for someone of Gibson’s medical credentials (which also claim to include being a diplomat of the American College of Forensic Medicine and the American Board of Forensic Examiners), he references zero medical journals or scholarly resources providing evidence that such studies ever took place to begin with.
As such, this is the result of what Haunted Skeptic did find.
Results of the Alleged NASA Study
A study at the University of Pennsylvania allegedly did take place, but with disappointing results for sun gazing proponents. It was supposedly the third in a series of studies where a man known as “Hira Ratan Manek” (namesake of Sungazing’s alternative ‘therapy’ acronym: “HRM“) claimed to have fasted for extended periods of time through sungazing with “spiritual assistance.” Manek claims that the alleged fast in question as it is referenced lasted a whopping 130 days.
There’s one small problem; it seems that fasting was never a parameter of consideration in the study in question. According to anecdotal evidence about the study, only the effects of meditation on the body were measured. For all of the fanfare surrounding these incredible claims with a whole system of alternative health therapy named after himself, it would seem that his visit was relatively unremarkable with minimal notice.
Only— there’s an even larger problem: sources say that the University of Pennsylvania denies that this study ever took place. Links to old videos in former Wikipedia edits on Manek seem to have been removed.
In other words, no NASA-supported study of ‘Sun Gazing’, as known to the public, ever existed.
Second Alleged Study
Prior to Manek’s US visit (and eventual settlement in the alternative health scene of San Francisco), another ‘major study‘ used to promote his self-branded flavor of sun gazing, allegedly took place both in Calicut and Ahmedibad, India.
Of these, the Calicut study spanning 1995 and 1996, led under the direction of Dr C. K. Ramachandran, supposedly lasted 211 days during which Manek lost 41 kilograms.
Third Alleged Study
The third alleged study, led by a member of the Indian Medical Association and Chairman of the religious Jainist Doctors’ Federation, was said to have lasted an impressive 411 days over 2000 and 2001. It was said that during the study, Manek, who was reported to have had access to dozens of persons outside, decided on the 401st day to climb a mountain without assistance. The study has not been subject to any reputed journals or peer review processes.
What does Manek have to say about lack of evidence?
“There have been many other sun gazers who have achieved similar results and have volunteered to be tested, however due to lack of funding and other lifestyle restrictions the results have not been documented. The uniqueness of HRM is that he has surrendered his living body for observation and experiments to the scientific firmament for several extended periods of time. Although scientists and doctors have agreed that hunger is being reduced if not eliminated, due to the complexity of the various brain functions, they have not been able to explain how sun gazing has such positive effects on the human mind or body, however more research is underway.”
Documentary: “Eat The Sun”
Unfortunately for Manek, it seemed that his streak of new-age ephemera temporarily died down when the film caught one of his various excursions from the loosely controlled studies on camera. Where did he go?
To gorge himself at a buffet, of course!
The Dangers of Sun Gazing
When should one draw the line between ‘spiritual belief’, ‘innocent superstition’ and promoting potential bodily harm? Let’s examine the inherent dangers of sun gazing.
Fasting has been around for thousands of years, but it would seem that “sun gazing” was made popular sometime around 1991. Before it was retrofitted to suit the varied sun-worshipping beliefs or used to describe a ‘metaphysical’ phenomena, the term’s origins can be traced to a popular study entitled, “Solar retinopathy from sun-gazing under the influence of LSD” in 1973— though it wasn’t until it became a public health issue that licensed physicians began to take notice. It was no ‘miraculous feat’ by a man from Calcut that set the medical community abuzz; On the contrary. Instead, we can look no further than an American psychiatric facility; In fact, several American psychiatric facilities…
Sun gazing in Psychiatry
An article dating back to June of 1990 in the American Journal of Psychiatry states,
“We would like to alert psychiatrists to a potentially serious self-destructive behavior, little recognized in the psychiatric literature – specifically, sun gazing.”
It concludes, “psychiatrists should be alerted that sun gazing can be engaged in by certain psychotic patients. It may occur more often than has been reported and might be missed unless the patient or someone else familiar with the patient’s behavior (e.g., a family member) is directly question about this symptom. Because of the potential for retinal damage, the seriousness of the behavior should not be overlooked. Ophthalmologic evaluation of patients engaged in sun gazing seems indicated, as well as education of the patient, the family and caregivers about the potential serious consequences of sun gazing.”
–American Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 147, No. 6 – Letters To The Editor
Psychiatric Journal Responses
In response, another letter was published in 1991 in the same journal, citing an epidemic of 27 who were diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia had been documented “sun gazing” at a United States Federal Mental Institution.
While sun gazing’s epidemic was in full swing during a hotbed of mental health episodes in the early nineties, according to the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology website database, Dr. Gibson, the modern proponent of sungazing, was awarded diplomacy in 1993 as a Psychiatrist with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. His status reads: “Valid Indefinitely.”
Sun Gazing in Public Health
100% of solar retinopathy cases result from sun gazing (hence the name).
References to studies in the advancement of solar retinopathy during all manner of daylight hours and UV indices are also bountiful. While some mark short-term retinal damage of sun gazing lasting at around 6 months, others have documented even the briefest of sun gazing periods to reveal drastic visual acuity changes extending beyond—with many leading to irreversible ocular damage and blindness.
Aside from the inherent dangers of sun gazing to good ophthalmic health, the side effects of fasting to “feed off of the sun’s energy” can indeed be fatal. Sun gazing claimed the life of a Swiss woman in 2011 after having watched P.A. Straubinger’s “In The Beginning There Was Light.”
Extended periods of fasting lead to starvation, dehydration, and eventual death. In the absence of caloric intake, the body normally burns its own reserves of glycogen, muscle and body fat. Breatharians (those claiming similar spiritual fasting benefits to sun gazing) claim that their bodies do not consume these reserves while fasting – a claim that as of yet also remains clinically unproven through peer review.
With the lack of evidence regarding alleged NASA-supported studies, some on the internet have decried this as a conspiracy. What happened to the video showing the alleged University of Pennsylvania study? Perhaps it was removed due to embarrassment; anyone could speculate. When Haunted Skeptic began researching this back in 2013, while claims of evidence to studies by Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Pennsylvania were abundant, no official resources were ever found, meaning, the video link as referenced was dead back then, too. In other words, several hundreds of hours were poured into locating evidence about it, contacting alleged affiliated professors, documentary filmmakers and even those featured in the documentaries themselves, to find not a shred of evidence pointing to the fact that any of the largest of these bold claims were ever evaluated as proponents of the sun gazing ritual would want to assert.
The amount of research dedicated to this review was so extensive, it was once considered that an inevitable book would be written about such perils. Then, something else disturbing emerged. Until sources could be verified through State medical boards, it was decided that publication of a volume on this topic would not be pursued due to potential implications of this discovery. It has been two years now, and this evidence perhaps speaks not only about the internet sources some rely on for anecdotal alternative-health advice, but the lack of professional oversight of the licensed medical profession as we know it.
Disturbing Evidence Emerges
The ‘morbidly curious’ Author wanted to know a little more about the only licensed medical doctor in the U.S. on-record to date promoting claims against hundreds of other licensed professionals in their own field of medicine. To find out what facilities had employed this physician so that more could be learned about the nature of his professional practice, a license search was obtained free of charge through two separate state Boards. Dr. Gibson was indeed licensed in both Arizona and North Carolina to practice medicine back in 2013, though the details of such practice beyond book sales and psychic conventions still remain a mystery; no one knows what facility, if any, he ever practiced in. His license in Arizona lists his address as a small office in High Point, NC linking his name to a “spiritual center”—-however, his license to practice medicine in North Carolina has now expired. Luckily, a quick search revealed what was found and confirmed with the State of North Carolina in 2013 for his former registered address of medical practice.
The author has reached out to Gibson for comment, though for two years, has not received a single response.
What do you think of this? What do you think of the lack of oversight in both evidence-based medical health fields as well as those of the alternative health professions? Do you have a different opinion based on what has been presented or any other external evidence? Do you have data linking to studies contrary to what we’ve discovered so far? Are you a physician who believes in sun gazing against evidence-based studies about solar retinopathy, mental health, and fasting? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: The ideas expressed are those of the author, based on evidence cited from independent sources, and not necessarily that of Dark Thirty News.
Haunted Skeptic is looking for individuals to discuss the controversial topic of Sun Gazing from both sides of the argument. If you’d like to appear as a guest on The Haunted Skeptic Podcast, please complete this contact form!