Healing Beyond the Body: Medicine and the infinite reach of the mind, by Larry Dossey, Time Warner 2001; Piatkus, London, 2009, 416 ff.
In recent decades Larry Dossey has made it his specialism to study the relationship between mind and healing. He has looked at the effects of prayer, both religious and secular through spiritual and distant healing, and shown that these effects are real and capable of rational, even scientific, interpretation [Recovering the Soul, 1989]. He has shown that, as medicine has increasingly acknowledged the influence of mind on physical health, this has increasingly penetrated into medical practice - and as a physician himself, Dr Dossey should know [Healing Words, 1993].
Still, the training of physicians in medical schools is essentially based on the materialist model - that all that ails the body is physical and all that can cure it is physical intervention. This sets the tone of this later book, which is presented in three parts. The first part deals with Meaning: to what extent does our mental image of being sick or well influence the physical course of illness? What effect does stress in the workplace have on physical symptoms? Is there a spiritual dimension to the food we eat?
Part two of the book is on Mind. Dossey begins here with a discussion of the `hard problem' - how does a physical brain produce a non-material mind and consciousness. The idea of animism - that all matter, especially living plants and animals, is endowed with a certain degree of sensibility - is very ancient and is being revived by both scientists and spiritual healing practitioners. We need, says Dossey, to `re-enchant the world', to feel this spirituality within nature. He also recommends laughter, assertiveness and fishing (!) as great tonics to negative feelings of self.
In the third and final part of the book, Non-locality, Dr Dossey gets to his favourite topic of the non-local mind. There are anecdotes of patients `seeing' what ails them, like tumours, or sensing that loved ones or public figures were in peril; and he gives a list of eminent scientists, with a summary of their views, who have written about the primacy of consciousness in our material world as a medium for such psychic messages. There is an interesting if brief discussion about the morality of one person being influenced by the mind of another through empathic telepathy. Then we return once more to prayer and the need for loving care throughout medical treatment, and finally to the significance of the non-local mind in creativity and immortality.
This is again an excellent book on a familiar theme from Dr Dossey. There is some repetition of stories or ideas we have read elsewhere, but the text is full of novel information. There are also 60 pages of reference Sources, Bibliography of additional reading and a detailed Index.
Timeless Healing by Herbert Benson
Howard Jones is the author of The World as Spirit