an age of CAT scans and magnetic resonance imaging, when physicians
have been replaced by technicians, it is easy to forget that
societys original healers were priests and shamans.
began in magic and was suffused with mysticism, and much of
its healing power is still by use of various forms of magic,
whether by that name or not, says Sherwin Nuland, surgeon,
medical historian, and author of How We Die: Reflections
on Lifes Final Chapter. We have certainly not
paid sufficient attention to the spiritual needs of our patients.
of Yale, spoke at a conference coordinated by Emorys Program
in Science and Society in April, part of a year-long investigation
into faith and religions roles in healing, funded through
a $70,000 grant from the University of California at Berkeley.
scientists, we have a tendency to leave personal beliefs out
of the picture, said Arri Eisen, director of the Science
and Society program. Scientific culture scoffs at the
idea of putting the words spirit and science in the same sentence.
much of the evidence suggesting that faith can contribute to
medical healing has been anecdotal, a few controlled studies
have shown prayer and meditation to have a measurable positive
impact. Surely the topic is worthy of further study, says Jorge
Juncos, associate professor of neurology and a researcher in
Emorys Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
there a biology underlying the way prayer can bring about serenity
and inner peace? Juncos asks. Studying the mechanisms
through which prayer may act as a healing tool could have value
to both society and medicine.
the Navajo tradition, health means keeping balance in every
part of ones worldphysical, emotional, and spiritual,
said Lori Arviso Alvord, assistant professor of surgery at Dartmouth
Medical School and author of The Scalpel and the Silver Bear:
The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and
Traditional Healing, who gave the keynote lecture at the conference.
Religion can be a force for healing, she says. It
can give meaning to life, and there is something important about
the will to live that greatly aids a person facing severe illness.
confident that healing will occur is, indeed, a powerful force,
says Joyce Burkhalter-Flueckiger, director of Emorys Asian
Studies Program and associate professor in the Department of
Religion, who witnessed this firsthand through her field work
with a Muslim religious healer in southern India.
healer, whose patients called her Amma (literally, mother,)
would declare success even before her patients left her clinic,
showing that the actual means through which the illnesses
were attacked were less important than the confidence in the