The healing power of dolphins

Cetaceans are some of the most extraordinary beings on the planet, and fascinating accounts of their healing power and telepathic abilities abound.

Many animal species seem to naturally use telepathy, as they do not rely on auditory communication as much as human beings. Dolphins, arguably one of the most magnificent creatures on the planet, are one of the few animals with scientifically documented cases of telepathy.

Bobbie Sandoz-Merrill summarizes some of the prominent research in her book, In the Presence of High Beings: What Dolphins Want you to Know. She notes that most research is conducted on captive dolphins, “handicapped by the stresses of capture and confinement, as well as their lack of opportunity to have learned from their mothers and communities” (69). However, the research results are still extraordinary. For example, in the 1960’s, “French researcher Dr. Javis Bastian found that two dolphins, Doris and Buzz, were able to conduct abstract communication through a soundproofed wall separating them in order to devise a plan that would enable them to succeed in completing a task” (69-70). Further research along these lines has been accomplished amidst much controversy as to what, exactly, the findings tell, but it seems irrefutable that dolphins do, indeed, communicate in a sophisticated, mental way, ostensibly without the use of other cues (see Kenneth W. LeVasseur’s paper for a detailed account and more examples).

One thing that may thwart research with highly intelligent animal species is our need for the duplication of results. Dolphins, for example, rarely want to duplicate a behavior if they have demonstrated it sufficiently. Sandoz-Merrill notes, “they seem to get bored and feel controlled by being asked to repeat responses over and over and often resist conforming to this human need for repetition, sometimes even when it means going without food rewards” (72). With this in mind, the University of Hawaii’s Dolphin Institute followed up on an earlier study (by Karen Pryor in the 1960’s) and encouraged dolphins to produce original behaviors. They taught their dolphins a sign that means “create your own behavior” as well as one that means “do it in tandem.” They found that when these two signs are given in unison, “two dolphins are consistently able to simultaneously perform the same original behavior, although the researchers don’t yet know how they do it” (73). Sandoz-Merrill further notes that, “People who have interacted with dolphins outside the limited parameters of research protocols attribute this ability to a combination of telepathic skills coupled with a high level of dolphin intelligence that our researchers have only begun to uncover” (73).

Sandoz-Merrill’s comment here leads us into the more interesting conversation about dolphins: the stories from “people who have interacted with dolphins outside the limited parameters of research protocols.” People who regularly interact with dolphins have numerous stories of extraordinary behaviors, friendliness, playfulness, healings, and the like. Sheoli Makara, who in 1996 founded Awakening in Paradise, a retreat center on the big island of Hawaii, takes small groups out to respectfully interact with wild dolphins (if the wild dolphins choose to interact). In a recent phone interview, I had the chance to talk with Makara about her personal understanding of dolphins after years of interactions. She refers to dolphins as “earth angels,” for they are here to help us, she says. Stories abound, she reminds us, of dolphins saving swimmers from drowning, from sharks, or from some other danger. In fact, she mentioned a story of a surfer in Hawaii, not too long ago, who was getting attacked by a shark – a group of dolphins came and fought the shark off, saving the surfer’s life. They help animals, too, she said, and local Hawaiian dogs seem to understand dolphins’ friendliness and often will go out and swim with the dolphins. In fact, she mentioned a specific story about a dog taking one of his companions out to swim with them for healing.

Dolphins seem to be natural healers. Makara realized this early on in her interactions. She had had chronic neck pain for years, she said, and tried everything to get rid of it (she had gone to chiropractors, who could fix it briefly, but it would always come back). Finally she just learned to live with the pain. One day she went out to swim with the dolphins, as she normally did, and began playing the leaf game (a game where you bring some leaves into the water and dolphins catch them on their fins, etc., generally just playing creatively in the water with you). She dove down and dropped off the leaves, and on the way up a dolphin jumped up and landed right on her head as she was surfacing. This, of course, was completely uncharacteristic of any dolphin behavior that she was used to, and it hurt as the dolphin weighed more than 200 pounds! She had a goose egg there, and a bit of blood even, and she did not understand how the dolphin had been so clumsy. Overall she was okay, though. Later, when she went home, it occurred to her that her neck did not hurt anymore. To this day, she has had no more pain.

A traveling salesman came to swim with the dolphins, she said, who for seven years had not been able to lift his arm above his head due to the pain of carrying heavy suitcases. With his first swim with the dolphins he came running up on the beach saying “I’m healed! I’m healed!” waving his arm above his head. She – and the others who interact with dolphins – have many stories of uncanny healings that have occurred with dolphins.

For example, a friend of Makara’s came to Hawaii to swim with the dolphins. She was a healthy woman just enjoying her vacation retreat. During the retreat, a dolphin came up between Makara and her friend and just stared into her friend’s eyes “for a good five minutes.” Her friend said she felt strong energy from him going through her body. When she went home a few days later, she had a regular check-up with her doctor. The doctor found a fairly large lump in her breast which they took out entirely in a biopsy. It was found to be malignant, but they got it all by taking out that one lump. Makara and her friend feel that the dolphin had somehow helped consolidate the cancer into that one lump, for her friend did regular breast self-exams and had never felt anything suspicious before. “Dolphins can scan our bodies like going through an MRI scan,” Makara says. “When they find something they use sound frequencies to bring into balance what is out of balance.”

How do we prove these types of abilities to our skeptical, scientific world, especially when mainstream thought indicates that no creature on earth surpasses human beings’ intelligence and overall abilities? Not only do dolphins seem to have healing abilities, but their capacity for remote viewing is most impressive (and our recent speakers, Russell Targ and Joe McMoneagle should be impressed with this). In 1974, for example, Scott Jones and Jan Northup conducted a study with a dolphin named Lucky at SeaArama in Galveston, Texas. Scott placed five instructions in five different sealed envelopes. Jan, who did not know what the instructions were, entered the tank with Lucky, and two judges, also without knowledge of the instructions, watched to record Lucky’s behavior. A judge would roll a pair of dice to determine which envelope to hand to Jan first. Jan would then read the instruction and mentally send it to Lucky (without any other signals).

Lucky was able to successfully perform the first two instructions, but a problem developed when he got to the third. Unknown to Scott when he wrote the instructions, Lucky would not be able to accommodate the instruction to jump in this particular tank since the roof over the top of it was too low for a jump. Thus, rather than attempt the requested jump, Lucky sent a thought to Jan indicating he couldn’t make the jump but would do something similar. When Jan received this message telepathically, she looked up and saw that the roof would prevent a jump and understood that Lucky was attempting to replicate a jump when he went to the center of the pool and bobbed up and down. For the fourth instruction, Lucky added a very dolphin-like element of surprise. He performed the task before Jan had a chance to open the envelope or read the instructions. When Jan then opened the envelope, she was startled to find that Lucky had correctly performed according to the instructions, as he also did with the instructions in the fifth and final envelope after Jan opened and read it. (Sandoz-Merrill 79)

What do we make of this behavior? It seems an obvious demonstration of intelligence, telepathy, and remote viewing. The judges, however, “marked his refused jump and the prematurely performed response as incorrect.

It seems that anyone who has worked closely with dolphins loves them, and these lucky people consistently give us the same message: protect these creatures. Makara noted with distress that Japan’s dolphin slaughter continues. “This is genocide,” she says. “All ages of dolphins are getting killed, even babies.” She recommends getting involved and donating to a group like Earth Island Institute. Sandoz-Merrill explains that the Navy sonar testing in our oceans is not only disorienting and traumatic to whales and dolphins, but it actually causes “explosive concussions to the ears and brains,” a theory that went unproven for years until a group of whales and dolphins washed up on the Abacos shore in the Caribbean in the year 2000, fortunately outside of U.S. jurisdiction (the NMFS had been blocking the ear tests). A scientist, moved by the sight of these whales, bleeding from the eyes and dying, finally tested their ears. The results were proof that the deaths were a result of the sonar, and it has caused even greater controversy as the navy continues its relentless push (Sandoz-Merrill 206-207).

In a June, 2010, TED lecture, Peter Tyack of Woods Hole explained that the noise humans are creating in the oceans just from the sound of boat motors alone is disruptive to cetaceans’ highly developed communication. Shipping noise decreases whales’ ability to hear by two orders of magnitude: what they would normally hear at 1000 km away is now only heard as far as 10 km. It disrupts mating and parenting, for males and females as well as mothers and calves use this communication to find each other. One of Tyack’s most hopeful facts in the midst of this data is that, amazingly enough, some studies have shown that whales have been able to “change their tune” and call in a higher pitched frequency than the one that matches the sound of shipping noise. Perhaps this gives hope that in some cases their intelligence can save themselves from our harm (as we certainly seem unable to stop ourselves from unbalanced behavior). In fact, if we are polluting the oceans with our noise from sonar and shipping noise, perhaps the cetaceans’ greatest hope is communication through some sort of telepathy. Yet, as any skilled remote viewer knows, one needs to be able to concentrate and relax in order to receive this sort of information; this may be hard when the screeching is so loud that it is causing physical harm.

Nevertheless, rather than be despondent, we should get involved as best we can. Cetaceans’ abilities, especially if studied non-invasively, in the wild, may be an important focus in the future for parapsychology research. Perhaps a demonstration of their psi abilities will give us an understanding of just what is possible for a living creature and offer more incentive to try to learn the behavior ourselves. Not only do they model impressive psi ability, these animals model sophisticated and peaceful relationships. For example, in the July 2010 issue of Outside Magazine, Tim Zimmermann writes about the Sea World tragedy where a trainer was killed by a killer whale, the largest animal in the dolphin family. “In the wild, [orcas] live in complex and highly social family pods of 20 to 50 animals,” he says. “The pods are organized around the females. The matriarch is usually the oldest female (some live to 80 or more), who has a wealth of experience and knowledge about where food can be found” (103). When the first Orca was trapped in 1965, Zimmerman notes, Ted Griffin bought a trapped animal for $8,000 off the coast of British Columbia. He towed it back to Seattle – a distance of 450 miles. This animal’s family pod, 20 – 25 orcas, followed most of the way. Additionally, during his captivity, he “was often heard calling to other orcas from his pen in the sea” (101). These animals are unified in ways we are not. The pods stay together for decades – sons living with mothers for 50 years or more – and peace among the pod is a given. To trap them for our pleasure is an abomination.

Perhaps as more people begin to understand the cetaceans, even more people will band together to protect them. We are making some inroads. For example, The Cove, a brave documentary that exposes the Japanese dolphin slaughter, has become quite popular in circulation and was an Academy Award nominee for best documentary of 2009. Additionally, in May of 2010, The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society submitted a “Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins“, which demanded that cetaceans be given the same rights to life, liberty, and well-being that humans have. You may sign it at the link above. More national press was given to cetaceans recently as a June 25, 2010, New York Times article by Natalie Angier described many scientists’ view that dolphins and whales are equal to humans in brain size, lifestyle, communication, and family organization. The article is titled, “Save a Whale, Save a Soul, Goes the Cry.”

The evidence is overwhelmingly obvious: these animals are intelligent, compassionate, complicated, and peers – or perhaps teachers – to humans. Their slaughter, their captivity, and the onslaught from our many forms of pollution is dismaying, but we can do nothing but continue to try to improve the behavior of our own species. “Act upon the challenges,” Makara says, “but don’t give up or give in. Rise above it. Shed light on it, no matter what happens.” Sandoz-Merrill finishes her book with a beautiful description of whales and dolphins: “Both arrive out of nowhere in answer to a thought, a need for healing, or a prearranged encounter. They are filled with loving compassion, harmony, and grace, and speak through multiple channels at ultrasonic wavelengths. When we can’t understand, they find a way to get through. They heal, they bring joy, and they evoke bliss. They are quite simply among the greatest beings in our midst” (213).

Let us hope that these magnificent creatures can find their way through the muddle we have created, and, in turn, help us find our way.


Angier, Natalie. “Save a Whale, Save a Soul, Goes the Cry.” The New York Times. Published June 25, 2010. Accessed July 8, 2010. Web.

Makara, Sheoli. Personal Interview. 10 June, 2010.

Sandoz-Merrill, Bobby. In the Presence of high beings: What Dolphins Want You to
Know. San Francisco: Council Oak Books. 2005. Print.

Makara, Sheoli. Personal Interview. 10 June, 2010.

Tyack, Peter. “The Intriguing Sound of Marine Mammals.” Posted June 17, 2010.
Accessed June 17, 2010.

Zimmermann, Tim. “The Killer in the Pool.” Outside Magazine. The Water Issue. July, 2010. pp 98 – 117, Print.

4 thoughts on “The healing power of dolphins

  1. A recent concern in the United States is that upwards of 80 dolphins and calves have washed ashore in the gulf, dead. Scientists and environmentalists do not know what has caused these deaths, but some speculate that the BP oil spill may have something to do with it. Though a connection with mercury has not been proven here, past research has shown that dolphins sacrifice greatly due to the high levels of mercury in the ocean. According to research presented in The Cove, dolphin mothers typically lose their first baby due to mercury poisoning. What more do we need to know to limit pollution, offshore oil rigs, and mercury emissions? We are harming other species, and we are harming the planet. Let us join together to stop those in power from making choices that continue this downward spiral.

  2. I have to follow up again to note that as of April, 2012, more than 600 dolphins have stranded themselves on the beach to die – all along the states that surrounded the BP oil spill. Biologists are looking for reasons, but it makes you wonder if the dolphins are making some sort of statement to us. Additionally, calves are being stillborn at alarming rates. See this article:

  3. It seems that most humans have some trouble imagining that they may be sharing the planet with, dare I say it?, more highly evolved beings than themselves! Cetaceans seem to have sustainable, joyful, loving societies, living in harmony with each other, and their environment. And, Humpback Wales, and dolphins have been know to save members of other species, demonstrating both compassion and altruism, it appears.
    Shouldn’t we be paying much more attention to these beings, and perhaps, try to learn something from them? Our world, and all we share it with would benefit, I do believe!

    1. Hi Katherine – what a beautifully expressed sentiment. I agree, wholeheartedly! Years ago when I read Daniel Quinn’s book Ishmael, he expressed the idea that perhaps our selfish planetary destruction/alteration was prohibiting other highly evolved species, like dolphins, from further evolution (into something even more sophisticated). I’ve always been saddened by that thought, that perhaps we are prohibiting the further evolution of other lines. And yes, we could learn so much from all the animals – no other species alters their environment in such a destructive way as we do – and to the detriment to other living beings. I hope we will learn, and change, in time. Thank you for your comment.

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