Controversy & Conservation: An Interview with Nicholas Pearson

Points of Healing, Points of Mine is a series of posts discussing the interweavings of conversations of crystal therapy, alternative healing, science & conservation, and eco-consumerism.

Not all authors within the metaphysical crystal and gem community would be willing to address the controversial questions I have gradually been accumulating. Nicholas Pearson is versed in science and alternative healing and graciously accommodated my request for an interview. Many thanks to him for his contribution. View his website and book titles here.

Question 1: Judging from posts I have seen within gemstones communities (Facebook groups for example), there is, maybe, an indication that crystal and stone enthusiasts are increasingly questioning the environmental impact of mining and consumerism. How much concern do you encounter about this issue within crystal communities?

Truthfully, though the concern for the environmental impacts of mining are increasing, they are not as widespread as we really need them to be to see any significant impact on the mining industry. I am starting to encounter it far greater than ever before, but it seems that the majority of crystal-enthusiasts, especially those not collecting for purely scientific reasons, are blissfully unaware. Hopefully with proper education this is something that we can change over time.

Question 2: I’m noticing that sometimes people within crystal communities who are not inclined toward conservation tend to justify any sort of destructive activity associated with mining gemstones by saying that it is all part of the transition/ transformation toward the next planetary phase of consciousness—or that because crystals are manifestations of a higher vibrational quality, anything associated with them would be for a higher purpose. It seems to me that this line of reasoning excludes those who are attempting to spare the environment, improve conditions of child labor, and prevent gemstone money from funding terrorism, drugs, and so on. How do you view these complexities and contradictions within the gemstone community?

Personally, I think we need to have more of these conversations as a community, but they need to be backed by evidence and a clear understanding of mining procedure and mineral science. Some rocks and minerals are mined in manners that are truly hazardous to the environment–and to human health, no less. There are countless situations where the gemstone trade uses unethical business practices like you’ve mentioned (child labor, funding drugs/weapons/terrorism, and other problems), but it can be hard to tell whether or not individual specimens purchased by crystal enthusiasts are a result of these practices. My friends and colleagues Sue and Simon Lilly include a discussion of mining practices and environmental impact as one of the first topics covered in their crystal therapy courses. Sue tells me that it is very important to have discussions on this and to understand the facts, not just the emotions. I think that much of the contradictory rhetoric is a result of viewing humankind as superior to other orders of Creation: animal, vegetable, and mineral alike. Many people who view crystals as “gifts” of Mother Earth that are ours for the taking–responsibly or not–may be perpetuating these beliefs of human superiority to the detriment of the bigger picture. Although my personal beliefs include the premise that the mineral kingdom is here to support human healing and spiritual evolution, I believe that we need to approach this responsibly and sustainably.

There is a growing movement of no-nonsense approach to crystals that may someday eclipse the negative aspects of the market.

Nicholas Pearson

Question 3: Are you concerned with conservation regarding mining practices?

I am definitely concerned with conservation and ethical mining practices. Ever since college, when I began to learn more about the mining industry in my geology studies, I’ve been a staunch supporter of buying ethically-sourced stones wherever possible. While we can’t always know how our tools are sourced, asking the right questions (see question 8 below) can be a big help in making the right purchasing decisions.

Question 4: The March for Science has recently circulated the following quote by Carl Sagan from The Demon-Haunted World on Facebook: “I have a foreboding of an America in my children or grandchildren’s time. . .when people have lost the ability to set their own agendas and knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media. . .credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” Do you have a response?

My reaction to the quote is complex. I sympathise with the overall sentiment of the “dumbing down of America,” but I see the bias against non-mainstream spirituality in the quote. While there will always be people who choose not to think critically about their “crystals and horoscopes,” these sorts of practices are rooted in anything but superstition. Historically, occultism, magical practices, and alternative/complementary/integrative medicine have been reserved for the fairly wealthy and well-educated classes of society. True scholars of these practices are critical thinkers who look for evidence (including contrary evidence) all along the way. Nowadays newcomers to these circles have easy access to watered-down information online, and they often take what they read at face value. So many of the people I encounter who are beginners in the world of crystal healing rely upon google searches, memes shared on social media, and blog posts to inform their purchases and spiritual practices. While I cannot make a blanket statement that all of these sources of information are not credible or lack substance, by and large the majority of them seem to regurgitate the same information without conveying any understanding of the deeper meaning behind spiritual practices such as working with crystals. My own mission has always been to teach people to really think about crystals, rather than just use them prescriptively according to what they’ve read online.

Question 5: Anna Merlan, writing for Gizmo Media Group does not suppress her disapproval of “The Crystal Capitalists’…participating in some warped, consumer-focused version of hippiedom…consuming too greedily, too obliviously,” though she also acknowledges, “The Crystal People are, I think, probably well-intentioned. Some of them are surely sincere spiritual seekers, looking for a different, less harried lifestyle, one that’s closer to the land, kinder to one’s own body and mind.”Do you have a response?

I empathize with Merlan’s quote inasmuch that there is rampant materialism in the body-mind-spirit industry, especially with regard to rocks and minerals. On one end of the spectrum we have the sincere healers, teachers, consumers, and vendors who are looking to connect the right person with the right stone. They genuinely believe in the power of crystal healing (and many have collected empirical evidence through the observation of their practices). On the other end of the spectrum are those who rely solely upon “magical thinking” and select crystals prescriptively in an effort to fix their problems without any self-awareness or real spiritual work. Unscrupulous sellers, bloggers, writers, etc. are adding fuel to this fire, as they sell common stones with newly branded names (“ancestralite” for banded iron ore, “rosophia” for red granite, “empowerite” for flint, etc…) and synthetic materials like glass and lab-treated materials for premium prices. All of this falls into the trap of materialism and feeds the ego, not the soul. Personally, I endeavor to educate people about mineral science and spiritual practice to help eliminate these traps. I know one person doing so is insufficient, but there is a growing movement of no-nonsense approach to crystals that may someday eclipse the negative aspects of the market.

The rocks and minerals from our local environs can be especially therapeutic. They grant us a connection to the genius loci, the “spirit of place” that oversees the land.

Nicholas Pearson

Question 6: Who do you consider to be your primary audience for your publications?

My primary audience is varied. I seek to enrich and expand the practices of people who are already invested in crystals or healing in one way or another, such as crystal healers, energy healers, Reiki practitioners, massage therapists, etc. I also aim to take the understanding of the mineral kingdom deeper than just the therapeutic context, thereby appealing to occultists and practitioners of a wide range of magical spiritual practices. Further, by marrying together science and spirituality it has been my hope all along that some part of academia may find my work appealing and that it may inspire new conversations about the role that the mineral kingdom plays in our lives.

Question 7:What do you say to skeptics of crystal healing who would want to categorize it as a ‘placebo effect’?

I don’t discredit that the placebo effect is probably a large component of why crystals work. However, I’d also point out that there are drugs in use today by the medical field that are only as effective as placebos, too. We don’t currently understand the profundity of consciousness and how it affects not only our health and well-being, but how it can influence the world around us at large. If we look at crystal healing through the lens of metaphor, rocks and minerals become symbols that lead our consciousness back toward balance. As we influence our psyche, that in turn affects our biology. While I believe that there are viable models that explain how crystals can heal, no systematic experiment has been carried out to-date that proves or disproves crystal healing. I would also point these skeptics toward the few studies that have been published about crystal healing, including one by C. Norman Shealy (MD and PhD), which he describes in detail in his book Miracles Do Happen. Gary E. Schwartz also discusses crystals in his book The Energy Healing Experiments. Finally, the work of solid-state chemist and materials scientist Don Robins provides evidence for psychic and spiritual phenomena related to rock and crystal, and he explores the mechanisms by which they take place. Former scientist with IBM Marcel Vogel, who garnered over 100 patents in his 27 years with the company, also retired to explore the world of crystal healing, and he developed practices that used science-driven, evidence-based models of healing. In time, I think we will see studies that provide conclusive evidence of the efficacy of crystal healing in peer-reviewed journals.

Question 8: What advice do you have for those who are conservation-minded, or don’t want to indulge the consumerism aspect of collecting crystals, but still want to work with crystals and stones?

If you want to avoid the consumerism, the simplest way is to buy as close to the source as possible. Some crystal sellers and retailers are putting a greater emphasis on buying ethically, and I’m seeing this gaining traction in the marketplace. Local rock and mineral shows and clubs have always been a great resource for buying stones directly from the source, too. Nowadays amateur miners and rockhounds are able to advertise and sell their finds via social media, making hand-sourced, ethically mined crystals more readily available to the collector than ever before. I love to support these people myself, and I think we will see more of this happening in the coming years. Another means of avoiding the consumerism is to mine things yourself and to use local rocks and minerals. While we may not all live in regions where it is possible to find gemstones and crystal specimens, rocks are virtually everywhere. Rocks are composed of crystalline minerals, and thus exhibit healing qualities. I’ll explore this in greater detail below.

Question 9: Could you elaborate on the importance of thinking locally when deciding on which crystals or stones to work with—especially for those who are concerned about the provenance or origins of the materials they are energetically engaged with? (This might be a question connected to your discussions of ethnogeology).

My love for crystals evolved from my penchant for picking up rocks as a child. There was something intrinsically special about them, especially when they came from meaning places, like the beach or the mountains or my grandparents’ house. I think this is the same principle, the same fundamental urge to connect to stone that fueled our earliest ancestors’ exploration of rock and mineral. The rocks and minerals from our local environs can be especially therapeutic. They grant us a connection to the genius loci, the “spirit of place” that oversees the land. There seem to be two contrary drivers in seeking out healing stones throughout history. The first of which is the sacred connection to our own land. Rocks are part and parcel of the body of the Great Mother–the planet–and carrying part of the landscape with you ensures that you will always be connected to it for renewal, grounding, and support no matter the course of your day. The other main impetus for collecting and working with stones throughout history has been the allure of the exotic and rare. Stones from faraway places are conceivably rarer and more valuable than local ones. Humans have therefore assigned special value to these exotic gems. We see it evidenced in the widespread trade of materials like lapis lazuli and jade, which were traded great distances even in the ancient world. For those seekers concerned with the integrity of the energy and provenance of their stones, going local is a great idea. Even my home state of Florida is rich in mineral treasures if you know where to look. There has always been a tradition of working with and revering stones from one’s home. Several books touch upon this, including:Phillips, Sue. Healing Stones. Freshfields, UK: Capall Bann Publishing, 1998.Landeck, Horst-Dieter and Mario Tuchel. Heilsteine vom Ostseestrand. Heide, Germany: Boyens Buchverlag, 2010.Permutt, Philip and Lynn Palmer. Sacred Stones and Crystals: Connecting with the Ancient Wisdom of Stones, Pebbles, and Crystals. London, UK: CICO Books, 2011.Other books emphasize the connection between where rocks and minerals are found and their unique energy signature. Two examples of this include Judy Hall’s Crystals and Sacred Sites, which suggests connections between specific stones and certain sacred spots around the globe. Many of the stones she writes about are sourced near or at these locations, though she provides substitutes for those readers who do not have access to such stones. Marilyn and Tohmas Twintreess also discuss the energetic differences among minerals from different locations in Stones Alive! Vol. 2: Listening More Deeply to the Gifts of the Earth. There is a section on “stone families” that discusses how, for example, amethysts from different places on earth vary in their energy and personality. It stands to reason that the stones that are found near our homes would exhibit energies that are supportive to our overall well-being. Perhaps we can spend more time connecting with them to offset the stresses of life and deepen our relationship with the natural world.Working with this type of locally sourced stone has low environmental impact (as long as we are mindful about what we take), and it is usually low-cost as well. We can examine the mineral content, formation processes, and other physical, chemical, and optical properties of these rocks to glean an idea of how local “ordinary” rocks affect us energetically. More important, however, is the need to connect to the essence or consciousness inherent in stones; this force will guide and inspire us on our journey with rocks and minerals, no matter the provenance of the tools with which we work.

Question 10: Why do you think there is such a magnetic link to working with crystals in this modern world? I realize the ancient traditions of this practice, but I’m thinking of the aspect of consumerism in terms of the attractions of the exotic (this is another slant on both of the above questions).

Honestly, I think the draw to rocks and minerals today is one level or another no different than that of our ancestors: the allure of the mineral kingdom is timeless. Deeper than that, however, I think that the modern lifestyle and the relative amounts of chaos and unrest in the world are steering more people toward crystal healing as a means of coping with stress, illness, uncertainty, etc. It’s the same general impulse that is responsible for greater interest in yoga, meditation, Reiki, homeopathy, and other such practices. In a world where we are taxed with great imbalance, we are seeking ways to restore balance, live in greater harmony, cultivate greater presence, and find authentic healing. Crystals are one means of doing so. Some part of the growing interest in crystals has to do with availability of both the stones themselves and information about them. Thanks to advances in technology, the mining industry has grown significantly. Interest in collecting minerals (in both a sacred and mundane sense) has opened new doors for miners, vendors, retailers, and collectors. As demand increases, suppliers are sourcing more rocks and minerals than ever before. With the internet at our disposal we can purchase and research crystals instantly. Additionally, publishers are offering more books on crystals than we have seen in years past. New research is being made available, and new books have to be released to keep up with the new rock and mineral formations being brought to the market. Discussion of the market aside, my sincere belief is that in such a rapidly changing world, humankind is drawn to the mineral kingdom as a source of stability, peace, and transformation. By connecting more deeply to the realm of stone we are given access to tools that will assist our personal and planetary evolution. We need this support now more than ever, and that is why I think we are drawn to crystals so magnetically.