Elmer E. Green (October 10, 1917 to March 5, 2017) devoted his life to the idea that people can develop voluntary control over internal physiologic functions that are normally involuntary, and to research and teaching about states of consciousness and spiritual development. He was one of the scientists who invented biofeedback and began research of it, working alongside his wife and colleague, Alyce.
Beginning in 1964 in the Research Department of the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, the Greens demonstrated that ordinary people, much like yogis, can learn to voluntarily control physiologic functions that are normally involuntary. These included brainwaves, muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature and blood flow in the skin.
The Greens were the first to apply biofeedback to a range of medical disorders, thus becoming the originators of clinical biofeedback. It was they who discovered that hand warming through skin temperature feedback effectively treats migraine headaches. They also developed a highly effective biofeedback protocol for hypertension. They understood biofeedback from a much wider perspective than that of physiology alone. Long before they undertook biofeedback research, they knew that voluntary control of physiology occurs through regulating the mind, and that quieting the mind opens the door to transpersonal growth.
In the early 1970s, the Greens studied the Indian yogi Swami Rama and the Dutch adept Jack Schwarz in their lab to investigate the skills of voluntary physiologic control that they had. The Greens subsequently led a team to India in 1974 to document the physiologic skills of yogis, using a portable psychophysiology lab that Dr. Green designed. The 1975 film Biofeedback: The Yoga of the West (Hartley Films) documents this work, as well as providing an overview of biofeedback.
The Greens authored numerous journal articles on biofeedback, and the book Beyond Biofeedback (1978) which provides an overview of biofeedback and discusses transpersonal issues related to self-regulation practice.
Cultivation of the Profession
The Greens were leaders in promoting research, clinical practice, and education about biofeedback and related fields through creating professional societies with associated annual conferences and scientific journals. In 1969 they cofounded the annual Council Grove Conference on consciousness, which is on-going. In the same year, Dr. Green proposed and cofounded the Biofeedback Research Society, now known as the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. He cofounded the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM) in 1990.
For 20 years Dr. and Mrs. Green lectured and conducted workshops on “The Theory and Practice of Biofeedback Training for Psychophysiologic Self-Regulation” in the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Great Britain, Holland, the Philippines, and the Soviet Union.
Education and Early Work
Dr. Green earned a B.Physics degree at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 1942, did graduate study in the Department of Physics at UCLA in 1947, and earned a Ph.D. in biopsychology at the University of Chicago in 1962.
From 1947 to 1958 he worked as a physicist at the Naval Ordnance Test Station in China Lake, California where, as Director of the Assessments Division, he oversaw the optical assessment of self-guidance systems for rockets. During that time he conceived of a “mental relay,” an on-off switch that could be controlled mentally. After his initial efforts to develop it were unsuccessful, he was shown in a vision dream that the time was not yet appropriate for that technology to emerge, though it would be appropriate later.
Receiving guidance in the 1980s that it was time to take a further step toward the mental relay, Dr. Green developed at the Menninger Foundation a research program of psychophysics and psychophysiology known as the Copper Wall Project. This research showed that recognized healers could induce, from a distance of several feet, large voltage changes in a wall-sized electrode made of copper. Subjects without healing abilities were unable to induce significant voltage changes.
Origins of the Research
A variety of influences led Dr. Green to do research to validate that voluntary control is possible of physiologic processes including electrical activity in and around the body. Among these influences were his ability to voluntarily control his own physiology, his awareness of yoga and Autogenic Training, and guidance from vision dreams since childhood.