Look around you when you’re next out in Brighton. Inevitably, at some point, you’ll cast your eyes across a shop with a figure of Buddha thrust right in the front window, garms from some indiscriminate factory in either South America or Vietnam (maybe both) draped on their manikins, all the while the smell of incense spilling out into the street, drawing and luring you in with its promise of spiritual serenity. These are the churches of the new religion, and crystals are their crucifixes.
Clearly such a tone is over the top, and perhaps a tad cynical. After all, not everyone who does yoga has been inculcated into some cult. Most do it because it feels good. There has been a growing chorus of scientific evidence that supports yoga and mindfulness as beneficial to mental and physical health.
Yet, where do crystals figure into this? Healing crystals, as defined by the Holistic Shop website, each hold different properties, and so different remedies. If you’re looking for greater clarity in your life, for instance, you might purchase a Tiger’s Eye, whilst Rose Quartz is often prescribed for those seeking calmness and gentle love. Who doesn’t need more of these?
My personal encounter with these edgiest of objects occurred last year, when a dreadlocked Frenchman I met in a San Franciscan hostel claimed that simply by holding a crystal in your palm, you could feel their power (or their “energies”, as he put it) course through your body. Unfortunately, the crystals chose not to speak to me that day.
This could well have had something to do with my heightened guard, given, as a rule of thumb, I tend to grow that bit more sceptical whenever anyone begins a monologue with, “I took Ayahuasca in the Amazon and met higher beings…”
However, there are many well respected proponents of the power of healing crystals. Celebrities such as the Beckhams, Katy Perry, and Adele, have all publicly testified to their belief in the spiritual properties of these most sought after stones. The latter going as far to say that her poor performance at the 2016 Grammy’s was because she lost her “f**king crystals!”
So is there any credence to the crystal? Well, scientifically speaking, and unlike yoga or meditation, no. Many in the science community refer to the practice of crystals as “pseudoscience.” This was backed up by a 2001 study at Goldsmiths, conducted to investigate the power of crystals, found that those participants given synthetic crystals (they looked and felt like the real thing, but were ersatz) were reported to have felt the exact same sensations of energy and well-being as those with the real thing. In other words, any effects are most likely placebo.
What’s more, for the scientifically minded, the very idea that you can imprint your love onto a stone, or, conversely your hate – which can only be remedied by submerging in salt water for a couple of days – surely puts crystals in the same box as Ouija Boards or Unicorns, or that myth of those toy aliens which supposedly could have babies.
Yet some might very well ask, where the hell does scepticism get you anyway? If one is to look at the “miracles” of Lourdes – the once disabled spontaneously walking again having supposedly been touched by the hand of God – then perhaps one might argue, sometimes belief defies science. And if we all live by our own particular fomas – those “harmless untruths” that let us sleep at night – then perhaps crystals are just a nice way to get by. It’s just a pity that this brand of spiritual enlightenment will cost you a few quid every time.