CAPA ROLF LINES Vol XXVI nº 01 1998 Winter

Gravity, Lift, and Inertia – Part I

Pages: 9-19
Year: 1998
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

ROLF LINES, Vol XVI, nº 01 Winter 1998

Volume: 26


Gravity is one of the most significant yet least understood influences on the structure and function of living things. In spite of the best efforts of some of the greatest thinkers of all times, the mechanisms of gravity, lift and inertia remain a mystery. We explore these subjects, beginning with the relationship of the human body to the gravity field, a topic that is important to virtually all clinical approaches. It is often stated that gravity is a constant force pulling us toward the center of the Earth. Actually, the strength and direction of the gravitational field vary from moment to moment and from place to place on the Earth’s surface. Three major effects are responsible for this: variations in the attractions of the Sun, Moon, and principal planets; variations in the composition of the Earth’s crust; and the centrifugal influence of the Earth’s rotation. Crystalline piezoelectric components of the connective tissue translate subtle variations in the gravity field into electrical signals. Because connective tissue is an electret, it is able to retain a “memory” of the various energetic vectors imposed upon it at crucial stages in the organism’s life, such as birth and trauma. The ways gravity and other geophysical fields interact with the human body was explored by a contemporary of Dr. Rolf, Frank A. Brown, Jr. Brown devoted his life to the study of biological rhythms. His work explains how gravitational rhythms may act as cues or “Zeitgeber” for setting the biological clocks animals use to adjust their physiology and behavior. Part 2 of this article will describe how a deeper understanding of the physics of gravity and lift arise from study of living systems.

“The question of all questions for humanity, the problem which lies behind all others and is more interesting than any of them, is that of the determination of our place in nature and our relation to the cosmos.
T.H. Huxley1”


Gravity is one of the great energies of nature, extending its influence across the vast reaches of space, affecting our every activity. The biology of gravity is of importance for virtually all bodywork, energetic, and movement therapies, as well as for all other clinical approaches.

In spite of its profound importance, our understanding of gravity has not progressed significantly since Sir Isaac Newton stated, in his classic, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), that, “I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypothesis.”

Mathematical physics has attained a high mastery of the effects of gravity. We can launch a satellite into such a precise orbit around the Earth that it will never collide with a single one of the millions of bits of “space junk” that are also orbiting our globe, each in its own trajectory. So precise and successful are Newton’s laws of gravity and motion that we can predict the exact position of the Moon at any instant for the next 2000 years. We also know exactly when every solar and lunar eclipse will take place, and the best locations on Earth to observe them in their fullness (Figure 1). Historically, the development of a precise mathematical astronomy has been driven by human needs: defining the seasons, navigation and commerce on the high seas, timing religious festivals, astrological projections.

Predicting the orbits of the Moon and planets was one of the greatest challenges in the history of mathematical astronomy. Newton’s Law of Gravitation enables one to calculate the attraction between any two objects in the universe. The attraction is proportional to the product of the masses of the two objects, and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers. It acts along the straight line joining them:

attraction = mass of one object x mass of other object/separation2

Applying this equation to two bodies, such as the Earth and the Moon, is relatively easy. But predicting the actual motions of the Moon requires that the influence of the Sun be brought into the picture.

The transition from a two body problem to a three body problem raised many difficulties. To make matters worse, the motions of the various planets also influence the orbit of the Moon. The mathematical problem becomes what is called an body problem, where the number of objects involved.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the central problem of mathematical astronomy was to describe the motions of the various heavenly bodies, that are in constant movement relative to each other. This was very difficult, even using the calculus that Newton invented. The problem involves determining the present positions and velocities of the various celestial bodies, and then predicting their motions for all future times and for all past times.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1998/516-1.jpg’>
FIGURE 1. Central lines of the total and annular solar eclipses during the years 1941-1962. The open triangles represent the beginning of each eclipse at sunrise, the circles represent the mid-eclipse at noon, and the closed triangles are the ends of the eclipses at sunset. Astronomers have methods that enable prediction of eclipses and the best places to observe them far into the future. Redrawn from Flammarion, C., 1964. The Flammarion Book of Astronomy. Simon and Schuster, New York, Figure 195, page 143, originally after Oppolzer.


This problem was so substantial that in 1885, King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway, a man of high intellect and scholarship, established a prize (2,500 Crowns) and a prestigious medal to be awarded to the first person who solved the n-body problem. The prize was to be awarded to commemorate the King’s sixtieth birthday, on January 21, 1889, a bit over a century ago.

On January 21, 1889, the prize was awarded to the already distinguished French mathematician, Jules Henri Poincare, who had developed new kinds of calculus to understand the body problem.

While the award enhanced Poincare’s reputation enormously, it was not a complete solution. In fact, it contained a fundamental error that was discovered by a colleague shortly after his manuscript had been printed. This led to a massive revision of his manuscript, which had already been type-set and many copies were ready for distribution. Poincare had to reimburse the journal, Acta Mathematica, for the cost of revising and reprinting his manuscript. This amounted to 3,585 Crowns and 63 ore, much more than his prize money. This remarkable story is documented in a book on Celestial Encounters, by Diacu and Holmes.2 Poincare’s manuscript opened a new era in the study of celestial mechanics.


The problem of the motions of the Moon was solved by E.W. Brown (1866-1938) after 25 years of calculations done with paper and pencil. In 1896, Brown published his equation, which is 292 pages longj3 At that time, the word computer meant a person who manually calculates the solutions to complex equations.

The precise location of the Moon at any instant depends on its relationships with the Sun, Earth, and the other principal planets, as well as the extent to which the Earth and the Moon deviate from perfect sphericity. In 1919, Yale University published Brown’s lunar tables4. The data have been entered into computers, and are still in use. Modem high-speed supercomputers extend mathematical modeling of the cosmos to encapsulate the entire past, present, and future motions of the celestial bodies Precise information obtained by orbiting satellites and space probes adds many subtleties to the dynamical descriptions.

Marvelous as all of this perpetual precision may seem, there are those who wonder about how stable the movements of the cosmos really are. What will our solar system look like billion years from now? Beginning a; far back as Poincare, scientists considering this problem have found within the subtle movements of the universe evidence for instability or chaos. Remarkably, Newton’s equations are just as useful for describing instabilities as they are for the clockwork universe. Chaos and complexity have been found in our solar system, but what this means for the future is a subject of research and debate5.


The seeming reliability and predictability of the “clockwork universe” belies the fact that we do not yet have a clue as to how gravity does what it does. This is so in spite of Einstein’s remarkable concept of the curvature of space time, and some 300 other theories that attempt to explain how gravity works.

Those of you who have struggled to grasp the meaning of space time curvature may rest yourselves, for al of Einstein’s conclusions are current] undergoing a “deconstruction.” This is a polite academic way of saying that they are being demolished! Classical physics was followed by modern physics, and what is emerging now is called “postmodern physics.”

This intellectual revolution is not described in textbooks. Authors of texts strive to explain the present status of physics as it has evolved since Galileo and Newton. From that early work, generations of physicists have built up a picture of nature that is as detailed as it is incomplete. Moreover, texts are inevitably preoccupied with delineating what seems to be known, and avoid the vast territory of our ignorance, the many profound questions that are unanswered, or even unasked.

The deconstruction of Einstein, and of classical and modern physics in general, has come about because of a growing recognition of the inadequacies of certain foundation assumptions and all of the physics that has been built upon them. Gravity is at the forefront of the problem, but the dilemmas deeply affect our conceptions of the other great “forces” of nature, electricity, magnetism, the nuclear forces, etc. We have placed quotation marks around the word, “forces,” because there are indications that our entire conceptualization of “force” may be erroneous. These developments have profound implications for the practice of Dr. Rolf’s work.

At this point, you may be taken aback, or even annoyed. If you think you know about physics and gravity, it may be frustrating to have someone suggest that we are really in a state of mystery, that what you have learned may be inaccurate or incomplete. If this is the case, we ask you to read on, because the new story that is emerging may actually be a better fit with your daily experience of gravity than the ideas you can read in physics books.

The reason for this is that new understandings are arising from study of the rich data available at the boundaries of biology. What physicists can measure in the laboratory yields one kind of data. But the energetic phenomena various “hands-on” practitioners observe in their daily work is another. If there is a logic and a rationality to the world in which we live, these two kinds of data ought to connect in some way.

In other words, we struggle to learn physics and apply it to biology. Perhaps it will be more instructive and comfortable and reliable to reverse this process. Can we construct a physics from our experiences of our living bodies? Our flesh has been molded from some 10,000 generations of experimentation with the laws of physics. Do we not have within us a mastery of the subject that transcends any experiments that could be done in a laboratory? This is the phenomenological approach to gravity, introduced previously by Aline Newton in her article relating breath and gravity’.

We struggle to learn physics and apply it to biology. Can we reverse this process, and construct a physics from our experiences of the living body?

An axiom of the Rolf work is that you are always standing on shifting sands: as soon as you think you understand what you are doing, your feet will begin to slip from under you. This precept applies equally to any conceptualization you may have about gravity. In your hands-on work you at least have a “recipe” to fall back on, to give you a direction when you come upon the unknown. In the study of gravity, there is no recipe.

In the absence of a recipe, we offer some ideas and observations that have been gathered over a few decades of exploring the subject. Each of these is a tentative piece of the puzzle. The challenge is to fit the pieces together in a meaningful and logical way. The most brilliant minds in the world have tackled this problem, but it is still unsolved. Perhaps one of you, reading these articles, will arrive at the needed synthesis.


Our interpretation of the organization of the universe has evolved through several stages. Initially, it was obvious to everyone that the Earth is stationary and lies at the center of the universe. After a great struggle between scientists and the church, the geocentric universe was replaced with the less obvious heliocentric concept: the Sun is at the center. Closer observation of the stars led to another idea: our galaxy lies at the center of the universe. The discovery that the universe contains billions of galaxies like ours, all in motion at high velocity, led to the current conception that there is, in fact, no center.

Other disciplines have also sought centers and fundamental parts. In biology, the discovery of the cell led to a certainty that the fundamental “atom” of life had been found. This idea was shattered with Pasteur’s discovery that a living process, fermentation, could be performed by a cell-free extract composed of molecules and enzymes. There arose a molecular prejudice: living matter, being built of molecules, must have at its basis a set of molecular reactions. Those with a knowledge of physics, looking at this picture, see that these views fail to consider the realms of electrons, protons, and other “fundamental” particles. Others are searching for the fundamental units of thought, consciousness, and memory.

Physicists seek the fundamental particle from which all matter is created. The search began with the “laughing philosopher,” Democritus, who conceptualized the indivisible unit of matter, the atom. Physicists have extended this idea to smaller and smaller entities such as electrons, quarks, and so on. Eventually, each fundamental particle is found to be made of smaller pieces. The fundamental unit of life and the fundamental “building block” of matter will always be as elusive as the center of the universe. Even the center of gravity of the body is not fixed. It varies with the body’s position, and, when the trunk is bent, can actually lie outside of the body.

Systems perspectives transcend all of these arguments by recognizing that any system, atom, molecule, cell, tissue, organism, or universe, is less an assembly of parts than a dynamic, synergistic, cooperative, collective whole, whose fundamental properties are continuity and relationship.


In many places you can read that gravity is a constant downward pull toward the center of the Earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The strength and direction of gravity changes from moment to moment and from place to place.

Yes, the gravitational field of the Earth is the major source of our experience of gravity, but the Sun, Moon, and other celestial bodies also pull upon us. Newton’s law of gravity is a “universal” law: every object in the universe attracts every other object. As you read this article, you and all others who are reading this article, and all those who are not reading this article, are exerting gravitational attractions for each other!

When the Sun and Moon are on the opposite side of the planet from us, at night, we are pulled downward by the combined attractions of the Earth, Sun, and Moon, and we are therefore slightly heavier than we are during the day, when the Sun is overhead and pulling us up, and making us lighter.

If gravity were constant, there would be no tides! Tidal effects document the fact that gravitational forces exerted upon us by the Sun and Moon, while a million times weaker than the gravitational pull of the Earth, can have powerful effects. In the Bay of Fundy, the Sun and Moon move 100 billion tons of water in and out twice a day. The geometry of the Bay of Fundy is such that it amplifies the tidal forces by a mechanism called tidal resonance. The natural frequency of the water movement is close to the frequency of the motions of the Moon. We will see below that the harmonic motions of the various celestial bodies also resonate with biological rhythms.

Not only does the strength and direction of gravity change from moment to moment, it also changes from place to place on our planet’s surface. This is not a speculation. Variations of the gravitational field strength on the surface of our planet has been carefully mapped, using instruments called gravimeters.’ Figure 2 shows two of the many kinds of gravimeters.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1998/516-2.jpg’>
FIGURE 2.Two kinds of gravimeters.(a) The Hoyt (1938) or Gulf gravimeter. A ring mass is suspended by a flat-ribbon spring. An increase in the gravitational field unwinds the spring and rotates the mirror. Tiny changes in angle are measured the by movements of a beam of light reflected from the mirror. Redrawn from Figure 5.4 in Dehlinger, P., 1978. Marine gravity. Elsevier, Amsterdam, page 105. (b) The Vening Meinesz three-pendulum sea apparatus for measuring differences in gravitational field strength from place to place. The three pendulums are mounted in line on a common support. The center pendulum is initially held stationary, while the outside pendulums are caused to swing in equal and opposite directions. Motions of the outside pendulums give rise to movements of the center pendulum. Mathematical analysis of the angles of swing of the three pendulums enable calculation of gravity differences. The use of 3 pendulums permits compensation for horizontal and vertical accelerations. Redrawn from Figure 5.17 in Dehlinger, P., 1978. Marine gravity. Elsevier, Amsterdam, page 125.

Careful measurements of gravity are not a matter of curiosity. Variations in gravitational strength from place to place indicate differences in the composition of the substrata. To be more specific, gravity measurements can help geologists find deposits of minerals and fossil fuels.

Figure 3 shows a “topographic map” of variations in the strength of gravity around the world. This map was not obtained with gravimeters, but by observing fluctuations in the orbits of satellites circling the Earth.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1998/516-3.jpg’>
FIGURE 3.Map of variations in the gravity field around the world, obtained by recording the fluctuations in the orbits of satellites. The diagram is redrawn from Press, F. and R. Siever, 1974. Earth. W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, Figure 20-28, p. 694. After Kaula, W.M., 1970. Science 169:982-985.

Another reason gravity varies from place to place is the Earth’s spin, which creates a centrifugal effect, tending to throw us off into space. Obviously, this effect is greatest at the equator, where the Earth is rotating at a velocity of about 1000 miles per hour. The centrifugal effect is zero at the poles. Moreover, the centrifugal effect at any one place is not a constant because of wobbles and tilts in the spin axis.

Hence during your drive to the office, your weight changes continuously, in relation to the kinds of geological formations you pass over, in relation to the position of your body relative to the Earth, Sun, Moon, Jupiter and the other principal planets, and in relation to your geographical latitude

It may seem obvious that these variations are trivial. The Earth is so massive and so close to us that its influence dominates all others. The gravitational fields of the other planets and celestial bodies must surely be inconsequential.

As with the arguments about the center of the universe, what is obvious may not be the whole story. There are scientific reasons, which we will discuss in Part 2, that even the most distant galaxies also affect us in important ways.


The connective tissue, the organ most responsible for supporting and moving the human body in the gravity field, is a crystalline piezoelectric (pressure-electricity) system. Any change in the strength or direction of the gravitational field, no matter how minute, must register as a change in geometry of the crystalline connective tissue matrix, and thence as a change in its output of pressure electricity. While the movements of a distant planet or of the Moon will have only a slight effect on the electrical field of the connective tissue, the living matrix possesses remarkable sensitivity, amplification, and ability to process subtle information

If there is any lesson to be learned from recent controversies in biology, it is that living systems are exquisitely perceptive to variations in the energy fields in which they are immersed. Animals respond to external energy fields at or near the limits imposed by the laws of physics’. Once information has been extracted from the environment, the nervous system can process that information with virtually no addition of noise. Not only do we know that this is so, we are beginning to understand the mechanisms by which these remarkable sensitivities are accomplished9.

Now we make an interpretation, based on some years of watching the emergence of new understandings in biology. While some may find this difficult to believe, it now appears that our connective tissue at all times “knows” our position relative to the Sun, Moon, and the principal planets in the solar system, as well as the more distant but very massive objects in the universe.

Motions of celestial objects give rise to variations in the gravitational field, and these are detected by our connective tissue systems, as just described. Celestial motions also give rise to subtle variations in the geoelectric, geomagnetic, light, and other energy fields, which are also detected by living systems (reference 9). The connective tissues, by mechanisms that have been described elsewhere”, are capable of sensing all of these variations. Hence the organism has a hierarchy of mechanisms for tracking celestial motions. As we shall see below, extensive research on this subject indicates that when one sensory mechanism is unavailable to the organism, others take over.

Some of us are better than others at bringing this kind of information to conscious awareness, but all of us register it in our tissues. Blind people, for example, can have a heightened gravitational sense. In a future article of Rolf Lines, Deborah Stucker quotes the experiences of Jacques Lusseyran in this context.

The living system comprises a set of sophisticated transducers, capable of tracking the most minute variations in the direction and strength of environmental fields. The experience of this tracking shows up in the various movement therapies. Not only do we know how this is accomplished, we also know why. Information on the Earth’s relations with the other celestial bodies has been essential for the survival of our ancestors, for purposes of navigation, for predicting the weather, and for predicting the best times for planting and harvesting crops. Information on our own body’s relations with the bodies of individuals near us shows up in group phenomena, such as dance, athletics, and other artistic performances.

While we have evolved an ability to sense our relations with celestial objects, and with the bodies of others who are nearby, there are periods when these relations are likely to have particular impact on our tissues: the moment of our conception, the moment of our first breath, and moments of physical and/or emotional trauma.


While the validity of astrology is controversial, it is not difficult to find a basis for an ability of the living body to detect and even retain a memory, within the connective tissues, of the vectors present at critical energetic periods in life. Collagen is a crystalline piezoelectric semiconductor. Virtually all such materials are also electrets. These are crystals that retain a memory of the energy fields that are present during their formation. Conception, birth, and traumatic situations are all periods when field vectors can be recorded within crystalline tissues as they are forming. The release of this stored energy, during bodywork or movement therapies, can produce a sudden pulse of energy that travels some distance through the tissues and that may even be radiated into the environment.

A illustrious and controversial astronomer, Percy Seymour, has distinguished between aspects of astrology that are supported by science and those that are not”. In his book, Seymour details the relationships between the interplanetary gravitational matrix and the interplanetary magnetic matrix, and the ways the various oceanic and magnetic tides interact with each other. His efforts represent the beginnings of a scientific understanding of the relationships between the cosmos and personality, a study he terms “astrological spectroscopy.”



Dr. Rolf emphasized the relationship between the fields of the Earth and the fields of the body. This subject represented the life’s work of a contemporary of Dr. Rolf, Frank A. Brown, Jr. (1908-1983). Educated at Harvard, Frank Brown became Morrison Professor of Biology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. One 4us (J.L.O.) was on the faculty at Northwestern, and had many conversations with Professor Brown in his laboratory there. These discussions continued after Dr. Brown’s retirement, when both of us moved to Woods Hole, Massachusetts. We frequently saw each other in and around the Library at the Marine Biological Laboratory. In retrospect, these conversations served as a foundation for understanding some of the deeper meanings of Dr. Rolf’s observations and intuitions about gravity.

Frank Brown was responsible for the translation into English of two very important Russian works, A.S. Pressman’s Electromagnetic Fields and Life,” and A.P. Dubrov’s The Geomagnetic Field and Life: Geo magneto biology.” He was also what we like to refer to as a “true biologist,” a person with the wisdom and breadth of intellect that enabled him to work on any species of plant or animal that demonstrated the phenomenon hew as studying. He studied worms, potatoes, beans, protozoa, hamsters, oysters, clams, mice, rats, and fiddler crabs. None of this research harmed these creatures, but focused on sensitive observation of the rhythms in their behaviors.

At the time of our Woods Hole discussions, Dr. Brown was attempting to publish some final papers summarizing his life’s work on biological clocks.

Any energy field in the environment that can be measured will be found to vary from moment to moment. Any bodily process that can be measured has a rhythm of its own. Nature is inherently periodic.

If you spend a long time in a cave, isolated from the normal rhythms of day and night, without an alarm clock, your daily body rhythms will continue on a cycle of approximately 24 hours. This “clock sense” appears to be a fundamental attribute of living matter (Brown, 1973).

Plants, animals, and microorganisms seem to have clocks that keep track of daily, monthly, yearly, and other natural rhythms. Such cues include the cycles of light and dark, changes in day length, the tides, lunar cycles, temperature variations, availability of food, etc. Rhythm adjusting cues are called “Zeitgeber.”

Biological clocks maintain rhythms in behavior, hormone levels, blood pressure, urination, body temperature, reaction time, and other physiological and psychological characteristics.

Clocks are also essential for navigation. Many homing organisms use the same tricks sailors have used for centuries: they know their position on the Earth’s surface by referring to the position of the Sun by day or the position of certain stars by night.

Celestial navigation has two requirements: ability to accurately determine the position of the sun or other star with respect to the horizon, and a clock to determine the precise time of the measurement, in order to correct for the relative movements due to the Earth’s rotation.

To study biological clocks, experimenters place animals in a shielded environment, and impose artificial rhythms of light/ dark, temperature, magnetism, or other cues. Often the behavior of the organism becomes entrained or synchronized with the artificial rhythm.

There are two interpretations of this discovery: the artificial rhythm entrained the biological system, or the artificial rhythm modified an internal clock.

These two fundamentally different interpretations have led to a major controversy in biology. The two primary hypotheses are:

The endogenous-clock hypothesis: When shielded from obvious environmental cues, biorhythms are maintained by some kind of autonomous internal clock or oscillator. The vast majority of investigators have adopted this hypothesis, even though extensive research has failed to locate the internal or private timers within organisms.

The exogenous-clock hypothesis: When shielded from obvious environmental cues, biorhythms are maintained by continuing rhythmic input from the environment, provided by subtle variations in geophysical fields that cannot be blocked out.

The two hypotheses have stimulated much research and a vigorous debate. As with most arguments, it is likely that elements of each side are correct. The inability to exclude either hypothesis has led to a third hypothesis that combines the most reliable features of the first two:

The endogenous-exogenous clock hypothesis: Organisms possess inherent rhythmic physiological and biochemical processes that are sensitively adjusted by subtle variations in the family of external and internal energy fields.14

Brown’s view was that the rhythms of animals are timed by celestial rhythms. This perspective was vehemently and articulately opposed by Colin S. Pittendrigh of Stanford and his colleagues. Pittendrigh and many others were convinced that theclocks timing biological rhythms reside entirely within the organism, within individual cells, neurons, and /or biochemical processes. The problem was that every process in the organism that could be isolated for study had its own inherent rhythm. The biological clock seemed to be everywhere in the body! Is a process with a rhythm the biological clock, or is it being timed by an environmental rhythm?

The arguments between Brown and Pittendrigh were vigorous and heated. Some scientists were simply unwilling to consider that our behavior and physiology could be influenced by celestial and/or geophysical rhythms. A minority held that it was both obvious and proven by the scientific data that the rhythms of living things are tied to lunar, solar, and other celestial cycles. “No man is an island!”

Because the scientific consensus was against him, Brown was having difficulty getting his papers published. Meanwhile, a few doors down the hall from our discussions in the library, Nobel Laureate Albert SzentGyorgyi was offering comfort to Frank Brown: Szent-Gyorgyi always took the rejection of an article as a certain sign that he had discovered something new! If his article was accepted for publication, he knew he had not made any real progress.

At different times, Brown gave me manuscripts he had submitted and resubmitted to the prestigious journal, Science. He was certain the tide of opinion was against him, and that his papers would not be accepted. His opponents complained that Brown’s experiments had not been replicated, but they were so certain he was wrong that they would not try to replicate even his simplest and most revealing experiments.

Brown was also confident that his views would someday be validated. This proved to be the case. The most important support for Brown’s perspective came from careful research on homing pigeons and other organisms that use celestial navigation. This research thoroughly and independently documented the extraordinary sensitivity of organisms to environmental fields that Brown had been discussing for many years.


On one meeting with Dr. Brown, he handed me a lengthy manuscript he was about to present at a conference in Scotland. Entitled “Unusual Senses,” the article described Brown’s conclusions from a lifetime of research on the relations between organisms and their environment. The article was eventually published as a chapter in a book entitled Sense Organs, edited by Laverack and Cosens.15

While she thought it would be difficult to substantiate, Dr. Rolf was convinced that all of the energy fields in nature in some way nourish the body. The life work of Frank A. Brown, Jr., provides a basis for this intuitive perspective.

The following notes, and our comments on them, are based on the “Unusual Senses” manuscript. They summarize the discoveries Brown and his various distinguished colleagues made about a subject that was of great fascination to Dr. Rolf. Figure 4 illustrates Brown’s final biological clock hypothesis.

We usually attribute our sensitivity to our environment to the traditional 5 senses: vision, audition, touch, smell, etc. However, there is evidence that the living substance itself possesses an incredible degree of sensitivity. (We interpret ‘the living substance’ to mean the connective tissue system and all of its connections to the cellular and nuclear matrices, a “system-of-systems” we refer to as “the living matrix”).

The spectrum of senses available to organisms, and the fluid, dynamic, yet stable ways organisms use this information, are rooted in the foundation of life itself. Specific electric and magnetic senses have been firmly established in certain species, and the mechanisms by which they are accomplished are well understood. Sensitivity ranges in the non-optical portion of the electro magnetic spectrum correspond the fluctuations normally occur ring in the atmospheric and geophysical fields.

Organisms obtain cues from the continuum of environmental fields. Our individual behavior thinking, and physiological functioning involves a sophisticated integration of all of the elements, fields, and rhythms i our environment. The ability to respond to bio fields of nearby organisms provides for coopertion between members of the same species.

A consequence of sensing the atmospheric complex of electro magnetic fields is that the organism has a massive amount of information available to it. This information relates to time, location, weather, and the local and activities of nearby organisms. Since life has evolved entirely within the Earth’s atmosphere, organisms have developed mechanisms to detect subtle variations in environmental field that provide useful or adaptive information to them.

The atmosphere reflects all the geophysical periods, the spatial organization of the planetary field, the movements of weath systems, and even the bio field projected from other living creatures. Since the atmospher an integrated entity, organism; probably reading from the whole complex.

Organisms are in a spatiotemporal continuum with their physical environment. Through a ‘com: electromagnetic sense’ the living system should possess, theoretically, almost endless potential viewing indirectly virtually every, aspect of its planetary environment, and even well beyond. Do the individual organisms, or instead, the organisms along with their physical environment, comprise complete functional units?

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/1998/516-4.jpg’>
FIGURE 4. Duplex biological clock hypothesis proposed by F. A. Brown, Jr. Celestial rhythms, such as solar, lunar, annual, and other natural cycles give rise to a continuously varying celestial energy matrix. This matrix interacts with the organism. Adjustable pacemakers regulating hormone secretions, sleep/wake cycles, urination, and many other process are set by obvious and perceptible cues: light, temperature, tides, and food. In the absence of such cues, the core rhythmic complex maintains physiological and behavioral integrity. The core complex is set by subtle geophysical rhythms: magnetic, electrical, and gravitational cycles. The nature of this core complex will be discussed in Part 2 of this article. The diagram is modified from Figure 10-6 in Brown, 1973, reference 14.

The strengths of the geophysical variations are small, and the responses of the organisms are large. It is difficult to prove this with normal research methods. The experimenter would like to apply a particular factor or stimulus, while keeping other aspects constant. Living systems are very responsive to different environmental fields, and organisms cannot be shielded from some of these fields (e.g. gravity). Thus experiments dependent upon conditions being held constant may be open to question. The use of statistical averages may or may not yield useful information. Time and position and orientation in ambient fields of all kinds influence the outcomes of experiments. The way an organism responds to one field is influenced by its position in the gradient of other fields. This makes the study of such interactions rather intricate. (Frank Brown spent a significant portion of his research career in painstaking studies of these interactions).

Fields have both magnitude and direction. Organisms know the time of day, by both solar and lunar clocks, and thereby the position of the sun and moon, even if they cannot see them directly. (Classic studies by Keeton16 demonstrated that homing pigeons use solar navigation on clear days, and a magnetic compass if it is overcast. Remarkably, insects and fish can navigate on cloudy days as long as a small patch of blue sky is visible. The position of the invisible sun is determined from the polarization pattern of the blue light).17

Biological rhythms persist even when the organism is kept isolated from the primary source of the rhythm, such as the light dark cycle of the solar day. The information gained from the environment is useful as it allows the organism to anticipate and prepare for changes in environmental conditions. Naturalists have frequently observed that organisms behave as if they can predict the weather by one to three days. Space sense is involved in the homing abilities of animals such as birds, turtles, fish and insects. It is called a map compass sense.

All living things continuously generate organized energy fields that spread out into the surrounding environment. Some well known examples are electric fish that emit pulsing electric fields. The fish can also detect the same fields, whether broadcast by other fish or reflected from objects in the environment. The pulsing fields are therefore used in communication and navigation. Sharks can detect fields generated by their prey, and use the information to capture food. Termites respond to their neighbors and use the information in constructing galleries.

Organisms as simple as beans, which lack a nervous system as such, can interact with each other through their bio fields. Homeostasis, and all of the regulations that comprise it, therefore involves not only the individual but also the interacting group of which it is a member.

The organism is a microminiaturization of complex and dynamic electronic circuitry, a living, reproducing receiver computer responder, thriving upon ambient electromagnetic. Our conceptualization of the nature of life must change in this direction if it is to incorporate the remarkable advances in modern physics and biophysics and to account for mysteries such as consciousness, information transfer and storage, the living steady state, and unusual senses.


The energy fields of nature comprise a definite family, in that they are all related. To be specific, tides in the oceans and in the atmosphere are caused by solar and lunar gravitational rhythms. The ionosphere, in turn, is electrically charged, and is a conductor of enormous electric and magnetic currents. Hence the atmospheric tides, caused by gravitational rhythms, induce subtle variations in the geoelectric and geomagnetic fields.

Dr. Rolf spoke of the fields of our planet interacting with the fields of our bodies. The planetary fields are the continuously interrelated magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields-the rhythmic geophysical environment described in Figure 4. How these rhythms affect the gravitational, electrical, magnetic, and levity fields of the body will be described in Part 2 of this article.

For the purposes of experimentation, there are ways of shielding organisms from electric and magnetic variations, but there is no known method for shielding against gravity. Hence gravitational rhythms could serve as Zeitgeber in the absence of rhythms in light, sound, magnetism, electricity, temperature, availability of food, etc.


Brown’s essay, and many valuable discussions with him over the years, provide a foundation for understanding gravity and its effects on organisms. Dr. Rolf was convinced that all of the geophysical fields “nourish” the body. Brown’s essay provides us with the concepts and language to explain what this nourishment is.

“The organism, with all its biological ‘clocks’, ‘compasses’, and ‘sextants’, is employing environmental information from all potential sources with maximum efficiency.” (FA. Brown, Jr.)

When we think of nourishment, we usually think of the food that provides us with the energy to move our bodies. There is a broader definition of nourishment, that emerges from the Greek root of the word, nan, to flow. Maintenance, supporting, and flowing of the body arise within this broader definition.

Information about our environment i~ essential nourishment. It enables us to act safely and harmoniously with the world around us. Behavior, thinking, physiological functioning, timing, predicting the weather, consciousness, and navigation all rely on a sophisticated integration of all of the information contained in the rhythmic energy fields of our environment, ranging from the biofields of nearby organisms, to the fields produced by the motions of celestial bodies. By sensing its place within this matrix of energies, the organism has a massive amount of information available to it. At a fundamental level, foods energize us because of the ways the atoms and subatomic particles retain high energy vibrations-a form of information-from sunlight. The rhythm of life is the sum of all of the various forms of energetic/informational rhythms and vibrations.

While Frank Brown’s views were widely opposed, there was no doubt in the minds of some biologists that he was correct. In science, as in every other perspective, a consensus does not prove anything. We have reviewed the scientific arguments, and find the basis for Brown’s opposition to be more emotional than logical. It has always been difficult for some to consider the possibility that one’s own body is at the effect of distant events. For the individual who comes to life from the direction of experience and perception, the answer is obvious. To explore the controversy about biological rhythms, we recommend The Living Clocks by R. R. Ward18

It was always apparent, from looking at Frank A. Brown, Jr., as a whole person, that he lived his scientific discoveries about his place in nature and his relations with the cosmos.


James and Nora Oschman’s new collection of research articles is now available to purchase from the Rolf Institute, Readings on the Scientific Basis of Bodywork, Energetic, and Movement Therapies. $125


1 The Huxley quotation is taken from page 211 of reference number 9 below. To protect the innocent and to make the statement more politically correct, the words “man’s” and “his” have been changed to “our.”

2 Diacu, F. and P. Holmes, 1996. Celestial encounters: The origins of Chaos and Stability, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NH.

3 Brown, E.W., 1896. An Introductory Treatise on the Lunar Theory, Cambridge, The University Press. Reprinted in 1960 by Dover Publications, New York.

4 Brown, E.W., 1919. Tables of the motion of the moon, Yale University Press, New Haven.

5 Peterson, I., 1993. Newton’s Clock: Chaos in the Solar System, W. H. Freeman and Company, New York.

6 Newton, A., 1997, Breathing in the gravity field. Part 1, Rolf Lines 25(4):27-33 (Fall, 1997).

7 Dehlinger, P., 1978. Gravity-measuring instruments. Chapter 5 in Marine Gravity, Elsevier, Amsterdam, p. 101.

8 Bialek, W. 1987. Physical limits to sensation and perception. Annual Review of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry 16:455-478.

9 Oschman, J.L., 1997. What is “healing energy,” Part 6, Conclusions. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies Volume 2, Number 1, in press.

10 Oschman, J. L., 1997. What is “healing energy, ” Part 3, Silent Pulses. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 1(3):179-194.

11 Seymour, P, 1988. Astrology: The evidence of science, Arkana, Penguin, London.13

12 Pressman, A.S., 1970. Electromagnetic Fields and Life, Plenum Press, New York.

13 Dubrov, A.P., 1978. The Geomagnetic Field and Life. Geomagnetobiology Plenum Press, New York.

14 Brown, F.A., Jr., 1973. Biological rhythms, Chapter 10 in Prosser, C.L., ed., Comparative Animal Physiology, W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, p. 451.

15 Laverack, M.S. and D. Cosens, eds., 1981. Sense Organs, Blackie and Son, Glasgow.

16 Keeton, W.T., 1971. Magnets interfere with pigeon homing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. 68:102; Keeton, W.T., T.S. Larkin, and D.M. Windsor, 1974. Normal fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field influence pigeon orientation. Journal of Comparative Physiology 95:95.

17 Waterman, T.H., 1970. Polarized light and fish orientation. Nature 228:85-87.

18 Ward, R. R., 1971. The Living Clocks, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

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