Over the past few years, collecting rocks has become cool again. In this age of science and humanism and in an era where the future seems especially bleak, people have begun searching for something new to believe in.
However, this “new” focus is actually quite old — crystals, compressed by time and pressure, have become the center of a new form of mysticism that idealizes them for their supposed healing properties and natural proclivity for energy conduction.
The rocks being praised aren’t just any pebbles or boulders. No, these rocks are premium, lumpy, glistening crystals.
The popular clothing retailer Urban Outfitters sells nearly 100 crystal-related products. One can purchase an “amethyst crystal cluster” for $12, a single “KITSCH healing crystal” for $24 and a “rose quartz crystal stone” for $12.
I’m not judging anyone for investing their money in these products for use as desktop trinkets and room decor. I am warning against believing that these crystals can serve as an alternative to modern medicine.
The concept of crystal healing advertised by companies like Urban Outfitters and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop (which sells “the Goop Medicine Bag,” complete with eight smooth stones, for $85) is appropriated from ancient cultures.
Crystal healing traces its roots back to the Hindu and Buddhist concepts of chakras — wheels of energy up and down the body said to affect physical and spiritual states of being. Crystal healing holds that different colored stones correspond with certain chakras.
But the use of crystals today has no reverence for this ancient spiritual legacy. By purchasing crystals from Goop and Urban Outfitters to rub on their temples and clutch in their hands, people are diminishing and disregarding millennia of customs.
Furthermore, the use of crystals for healing outside of religious practice has no scientific basis. The only effects created by crystals have been proven to be placebo results due to some misplaced optimism.
This isn’t to say those placebo effects are useless. When you’re looking for help, anything works. But at best, crystals are useful in conjunction with other forms of treatment, never as a replacement or in the way condoned by companies that profit from selling them.
Goop, for example, describes carnelian as a palliative stone that “provides emotional support for female reproductive issues,” praises lapis lazuli as a method of anxiety reduction and glorifies the ability of amethyst to keep “energy vampires” out of one’s personal space.
These are rocks. They cannot do these things.
Relying on them as an alternative to pain relief medications, physical or mental therapy or antidepressants is foolish. Reliance on rocks delays actual relief, gives profit to the wealthy people who believe their consumers are gullible enough to fall for their mysticism and robs a culture of its significance.
Before you purchase an overpriced chunk of shiny earth to help with your anxiety, take the time to consider where else that money could go to contribute to your treatment. Reflect on the cultures and traditions that your purchase will disregard. If you really want to connect with a cosmic energy flow, maybe consider going outside.
Eamon Morris PZ ‘22 is from Orange, California. He and his sister used to collect rocks.