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Guide: You describe three
eras of healing in your book, Reinventing
Medicine. Can you
elaborate on this?
Dossey: They basically are
a way of making sense of all the confusion and chaos going on in
medicine today. Era One began in the 1850s, 1860s. Today we call this
mechanical medicine. It's the use of drugs, surgical procedures,
radiation and so forth. And it's obviously still with us; it dominates
medicine. But beginning in 1950, or there abouts, a new era began which
I call Era Two. Today this is known as mind and body medicine. It used
to be called psychosomatic disease. Basically, it's the idea that our
emotions and thoughts, and feelings can affect health. Era Three
includes the ability of consciousness to reach out beyond ourselves to
make a difference in other people. Intercessory prayer is an example of
an era three therapy--healing intention. Gaining information
from the world, such as through premonitions and dreams, that are
relevant to health, is also an example of Era Three. So we have these
three categories, which differ radically in how they view
consciousness, and how they acknowledge, or fail to acknowledge, the
cosmic consciousness. Cosmic consciousness is virtually absent from Era
One. It makes an appearance in Era Two, but is limited to your own
body. In Era Three, consciousness is freed from the body, and is freed
from its limitations in space and time.
Guide: Do you use the word
spirit at all in this? Do you use that phrase in connection with the
Dossey: Sure. For me,
consciousness is a huge umbrella under which many things gather. I
think consciousness is infinite; I think it's immortal, an eternal. I
think it's equivalent to what many people call spirit. I use
"consciousness" in such a broad way that it includes the concept of
Guide: In your experience,
does meditation affect healing?
Dossey: Meditation is a
powerful way of entering into healing states. Herbert Vincent, for 20
years at Harvard, has shown that meditative states, and almost any kind
of contemplative state, can be good for the body. When people meditate,
the blood pressure comes down, the heart rate falls, immune changes
take place in the body, and so on. So meditation is certainly a way of
bringing about healing influences in our own body. But this certainly
doesn't approach non-local, or Era Three type
influences--where the influence escapes our own body, and
reaches out into the world.
Guide: I asked that
because I'm involved in a meditation group myself, locally. Yogananda's
form of Kriya yoga. And, one of the things that happen at the end of
our group meditations is healing for other people. We chant Om three
times, and then hold our hands up, and radiate energy out of our hands
and hearts in the direction of the individuals named. We don't say what
town they're in, but we say who they are, and what's wrong with them.
Have you experience with this type of thing? A group focusing on one
Dossey: This is actually
been tested in certain studies, and has achieved positive results. For
example, at the University of California San Francisco Medical School,
they actually tested healing intentions, which were initiated at a
great distance by several individuals, for people with advanced AIDS.
This was a double blind study. The people who received the healing
intentions statistically did much better than people who did not. So
this is not just fantasy. This is a valid phenomenon, which has been
Guide: One healing system
that I've been studying lately is shamanic healing--the
indigenous shamans of South and Central America. It seems like, with or
without drugs, they're doing non-local healing, going out of the body,
and also diagnosing intuitively.
Shamanism is non-local to the core. Shamans are good with local
therapies too. For example, shamanism is wound up with the use of
native methods, including herbs, and so on. Plus, shamans are just darn
good psychologists. They're some of the world's best. So shamanism is a
beautiful mix of local and non-local therapies. But it certainly does
include non-local mind.
Guide: Larry, aside from
healing, I've also heard that group meditation can actually lower the
crime rate in cities. That there have been tests about this.
Dossey: The Transcendental
Meditation movement, popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, has done
many tests on the ability of people to lower crime rates, and improve
the quality of life in geographic areas. And with positive results,
they claim that if the square root of one percent of the population
enters into a particular framework of consciousness, then these changes
happen. Actually, these studies are very intriguing. They have been
published in first rate journals, scientific journals from time to
time. They support the idea that group consciousness can make a change
in the world for the better.
Guide: It does seem like,
whether we're talking about healing individuals or groups, or lowering
the crime rate, it's all part of the larger thing, which is expressing
Dossey: I think we
shouldn't put these techniques in a box, and look at them as an
individual therapy, or a group-related therapy. The studies show
clearly, in my judgment, that the intentions of single individuals can
make a difference. And also that the intentions of groups can make a
difference. So it's both the individual and the group.
Guide: We often hear about
the different parts of a human being broken into the spirit and the
mind, and the body, and the emotions. I know in the West they're
treated separately. How do you view these, yourself?
Dossey: Well, for me
there's such a fluid interaction between them that it's difficult to
put them in a box and separate them one from another. I think we get
into real trouble when we try to do that. There is a kind of a
structural relationship between them, in my judgment. In my view,
consciousness is over everything. It informs the body. The ancient idea
that the physical derives from the non-physical is a valid way to
approach this. In other words, the body is contained in consciousness.
Not the other way around, which is what's said in Western science. So,
I see the Absolute, my term for the Divine by the way, over everything.
Consciousness is under that, and then the physical derives from that.
So there's a kind of hierarchy involved. This is the approach that's
taken by virtually all great wisdom traditions.
Guide: So if there is a
hierarchy or structure, we can't necessarily enter in on a certain
level, and preclude things from down below there from happening?
Dossey: That's exactly
right. The very idea that you can use any therapy--whether
it's Bach flower remedies, or penicillin--apart from, and
separate from, the actions of consciousness that go on at the same
time, is an idea that's really in trouble. To try to assign some
fundamental influence to a certain remedy, or even listening to Mozart,
and separate that from what consciousness may be doing at the same
time, I think is virtually impossible. As if these things don't
interact with each other.
Guide: So better to use
all the modalities together? You know, playing Mozart is good, Bach
flowers may be good, but you don't want to forget the penicillin either.
Dossey: Right. And the very
idea that we could use something, such as inoculation, is in trouble.
If you go to your doctor, and he writes you a prescription for
penicillin, you may regard that as a physical therapy. I mean,
that's a chemical. But the moment you take the prescription in your
hand, you begin to use your own powers of consciousness, in terms of
your expectations of what's gonna' happen. Suggestion, or positive
thinking may enter. And, who knows, your doctor may pray for you, or
send you healing intentions. "I want my patient to get over this." He
or she may do that when you leave the office. All of those enter into
your clinical response, when you take that pill. I don't think that
therapy is as simple as we often make it out to be. Whether we're
trying to assess penicillin, or herbal remedies, or anything else.
Guide: Do the different
forms of energy medicine, such as acupresure, Jin Shin Jyutsu,
Reiki; do these balance energy in the subtle bodies before
the balances manifest in the physical?
Dossey: I'm not a fan of
the term "energy medicine." I've written widely that I think that term
is mis-construed, particularly when it comes to the non-local forms of
healing. For example, a Qi Gong Master tries to interact with someone
at a distance, and people call that today a form of energy medicine. No
one inside of science, or outside of science, has been able to
demonstrate any exchange of energy in that situation. Zero. This is a
metaphor, which people talk about as if it's real. We talk about
sending energy, and talk about subtle energy. There isn't any evidence
that energy is subtle or otherwise is exchanged. I think it's
misleading to call this energy medicine, because that suggests that
something measurable and tangible is being exchanged, when the evidence
suggests otherwise. I think that our vocabulary has gotten us into deep
trouble regarding how we think about these kinds of therapies.
Guide: They're expressions
of non-local mind?
Dossey: Yes, they're
expressions of non-local mind--because all of them involve
intention, and willing, and the images and visualizations of healing,
and so on. Here's the key point: non-local mind, non-local phenomena,
are widely known in physics now. But they do not involve the exchange
of energy. Nothing is sent in non-locally correlated events.
Guide: Nothing is sent.
So, what's happening?
Dossey: Consciousness is
everywhere; it's omnipresent. There's no necessity for anything to go
anywhere, because consciousness is already everywhere. We don't need to
lapse back into these old classical images and metaphors drawn from
mechanical physics, which is what this whole movement of energy
medicine is wallowing in. I've challenged people to go beyond this kind
of thinking--to get out of the energy straight jacket. It
really does distort how we think these things happen. And coaching
things in terms of these energy concepts short changes us spiritually.
It separates us. It says for example, "You're there in Sebastopol, and
I'm here in Santa Fe. And if you want to do energy healing on me,
you're gonna have to send something to me, because you and I are
separate. We have to bridge the gap." And that's where we insert subtle
energy, or some form of energy. This is a devastating image, because it
separates us. Non-locality brings us together. It says that these
things can happen in principle, because you and I are not
separate--our consciousness is already one. So there's no
necessity for you to send any sort of subtle energy to me. As long as
we call this stuff energy medicine, we're engaging in the images and
ideas of separation. This is terrible in my
judgment--terrible because it doesn't fit with ancient
wisdom, which recognizes the great unity between individuals at the
level of consciousness. It short changes us because it denies the
interdependencies in each of us, which is unitary to the core. It
consigns us to a world of separation and distance, instead of one
that's in unity. For all these reasons, I must say, I wish we could go
beyond these images of energy healing and energy medicine, which I
think need to be abandoned. That's a general comment. I just disagree
with folks about that.
Guide: So when the group's
chanting "Om", they're not sending energy to another person, but
stimulating the energy that they have already, like triggering a
Dossey: That's right.
Energy talk is okay to describe what's going on in your body. We all
know that there are electrical and chemical energies that are operating
inside human bodies. But to describe what goes on between you and me at
great distances, energy talk is helpless to describe that. We've got to
go beyond the energy metaphors to describe how the influence happens at
a distance. How distant intentions work, how love works, how passion
works, how prayer works at a distance.
Guide: So, you're
awakening the energy that's in the distant person?
Dossey: Yes, but you don't
do that by tweaking the distant person by sending any sort of energetic
signal, subtle or otherwise.
Guide: How would you say
Dossey: It's an action of
consciousness. It's a non-local, distant action of consciousness, which
doesn't require energy for its activity. Nothing is sent, nothing goes
Guide: All right, nothing
is sent. What is happening to the recipient?
Dossey: Oh, all sorts of
things. Things are being played out in their body as a result of your
healing intention, and your prayer, and your loving thoughts, your
empathy, etc. In these studies in distant healing, in intercessory
prayer, for example, all sorts of things happen, things that can be
measured. Disease often goes away. Heart attacks heal up, many things
have been demonstrated as a result of the healing intention. You know,
Qi Gong Masters are people who are praying, trying to heal at a
distance. They often describe energy-type changes in their own bodies.
For example, healers often describe their hands being warm. They
experience tingles through the body. These things are energetic
phenomena happening in the body. The distinction I'm trying to draw for
you here is that there are these local changes in the body of the
initiator and the recipient. But there are non-local phenomena that
bridge the gap, which cannot be described by any sort of energetic
electromagnetic signal. Actually, its not easily articulated in common
Guide: I don't want to get
hung up on this, but because I am a meditator, and I'm interested in
spiritual matters, it's of interest to me.
Dossey: Oh, well it's of
fascination to me too. I think this is a crucial issue. You could
devote an entire issue of your journal to try to sort out this flap
over energy medicine. People are completely unclear about this. And
they don't distinguish between what's happening in the body of the
sender and the receiver--and what happens in between. They
lump it all together. And it comes out as some super unintelligible
mish mash. And it's killing us, as far as how to carry these things
into modern hospitals and medical institutions, which is what I want to
do. First of all, there isn't any measurable evidence for any kind of
energy that bridges the gap. So this gives the skeptics and the cynics
open season. And they'll say, "Here are these people talking nonsense
about subtle energies being sent between people…this field is just as
crazy as I thought it was. It really hurts those of us who are trying
to legitimize this field, and bring it into eventual mainstream
medicine, which is crucial. This may just seem like symantics to
somebody who doesn't care what you call it. But if you go out into the
real world, and you try to make a difference in the highest levels of
medicine, you'd better care what you call it. Because the vocabulary
and the concepts you use will either make or break it. This is why this
subject has been very important to me, and why I get rather irritated
at the loose language that people in this movement use who do know
about science. I want to say, "Come on guys, sharpen this thing up
here. I mean, this is really getting pretty loose here." And
unfortunately the response of some of the folks to what I've had to say
is, "Well, you're denying distant healing." Or, "You're denying that
this stuff is real." Which is utterly not true.
Guide: You're just giving
it a different emphasis?
Dossey: Yes! For God's
sake, I've spent the best part of my adult life standing up for these
phenomena. I just think we have to be careful about how we language it.
Guide: What about people
who don't have a positive mental attitude, or, are less spiritual. Do
you see those kind of people having a harder time physically healing?
Dossey: Yes, I think it's
harder for them to heal. But it's certainly not hopeless. For example,
your group meditation session …you can have a healing influence on
those people regardless of what they think. Whether they have a
negative attitude, a positive attitude, or something in between. How do
we know this? You can test it. By now, there have been enough
experiments with enough people to show that healing intentions operate
regardless of what the individual thinks. I think that positive
attitude--what we used to call faith, and what doctors now
call the "placebo response"--I think that empowers any sort
of healing, whether it's penicillin or prayer. But it's certainly not
essential. Most of these studies that I'm referring to have been
double-blind, which means that the recipient is not even aware that he
or she is being prayed for, or being sent healing intention. The
healing intentions work any way. So there you go. Plus, you can do
these things on animals. You can even pray for a bacteria to multiply
faster in these 100 test tubes, versus those 100 test tubes that are
controlled, that don't receive healing intention. And those that are
offered the prayer or healing intention grow faster. Presumably
bacteria don't think positively or negatively. You get my drift here?
Guide: Yes, I remember
that covered in your book Reinventing Medicine. On another
subject, since this is our Women's Health issue, are there any women's
health issues that you'd like to address, or thoughts for women's
healing in general?
Dossey: My work has been
has involved the spiritual aspects of healing. Quite frankly, gender is
not an issue when it comes to healing effects from prayer intentions.
I'm happy to say that, because this is so universal, it bypasses
culture, language, and gender. If there's any area where gender is just
rendered almost irrelevant, it's in the area of distant healing, or
spiritual healing. But having said that, let me also add that if you
look at the scientific literature, and the studies in this area, most
of the healers in the experiments are women. There's an openness on the
part of women in our culture for spiritual healing, that seems to
exceed that of men. So I'm personally indebted to the contribution that
women have made to the study of spiritual healing in medicine
currently. I'm also fascinated by the fact that 50% or more of many of
the medical school classes these days are made up of women. Women are
bringing a greater openness, and a willingness, to go in the direction
of spirituality in medicine. This augurs very well for the future. My
wife and I purposely selected a woman for our private physician. I just
think that women by and large have an intuitive, nurturing instinct
that feels quite wonderful, if you're a patient. I respond to that. And
that's why we have a woman doctor.
Guide: Let's go on to some
specific health questions for the women. What are the most common areas
of imbalance that you see in women? The most common ailments that you
think we have to watch out for in our society? For instance, I know
breast and ovarian cancer are on the increase.
Dossey: Actually, the major
threat to women statistically is heart disease. This gets forgotten.
You know, the risks of a woman dying of heart disease are far greater
than dying of breast cancer in this country.
Guide: I wasn't aware of
Dossey: Many women aren't
either. The concern over breast cancer and female cancers of various
sorts is so great, that the attentions of women have been virtually
distracted from the greatest threat to their health. Which remains as
heart disease. Heart disease is the biggest killer in our culture, in
men and women. Women get distracted, I think, because there really is a
national phobia against cancer. However, the statistics for survival
after diagnosis of heart disease are worse than following diagnosis of
cancer. In other words, following their diagnosis, people with cancer
on average live longer than people who are diagnosed with heart
disease. This is a misconception that we need to address.
Guide: So there's less
fear, and consequently, less awareness of the heart disease problem?
Dossey: Yes, and it's
absolutely ironic, because many women will be very diligent with things
like mammograms, and diets designed to prevent cancer, but they may not
be attuned to preventive measures and behavioral measures to thwart
heart disease As an internist, this is a real issue for me, because I
hate to see heart disease neglected as a result of the serious
attention devoted to cancer. They're both important. Women need to
cover all their bases, not just one. I presented the statistics on this
at a meeting comprised mostly of women--people involved in
healing, but not physicians. This was a lay person's group. And I was
attacked afterwards by a woman whose life was devoted to teaching women
to avoid breast cancer. She roundly denied that more women denied of
heart disease than cancer. In her mind, breast cancer is the number
one, hands-down killer of American women.
Guide: But, not
Dossey: I told her the
statistics. She said, "That's not true."
Guide: She wasn't ready to
Dossey: She wasn't ready.
She was so obsessed with breast cancer, that she was blind to the
larger threat to women's health, which is heart disease. So, I sent her
the National Institute of Health's statistics on causes of death for
American women. And even so, she had immense trouble acknowledging the
facts. This was a vivid example to me of selective blindness. But I'll
tell you one way to bring these two areas together. Many of the things
that women do to prevent cancer, also prevent heart disease. Exercise
is an example. Exercise is a potent retardant to both heart disease and
cancer, of all sorts. Another example is the use of antioxidants. Many
of the therapies designed for one of these problems has a beneficial
effect for the other. So it kind of smoothes out the bumps here a
Guide: Let's move on to
another subject. Have you used medical intuitives? Got any thoughts on
Dossey: I left my private
practice in 1988, and at that time medical intuitives were not very
widely known, just to put it mildly. But in my new book, Reinventing
Medicine, I talk about three medical intuitives, Caroline Myss,
Judith Orloff, and Mona Lisa Schultz. Medical intuitives are enjoying a
comeback. But this is nothing new in medicine, by the way.
Guide: But it fits into
the framework of the non-local mind?
Dossey: Medical intuition
is what I call non-local knowingness. It's gaining information from the
world out there, non-locally. Distant healing and intercessory prayer,
for example, praying for somebody else, that's inserting information
into the world out there to make a difference. It's like extracting
information from the world out there. So they go together.
Guide: I noticed that the
three that you named are all ladies.
Dossey: What does that tell
you? It tells me that women have a greater openness, and a greater
willingness to step forward on these issues. But I don't want to leave
the men out of this, you know. I really do not want to make this a
gender issue. Men have been great medical intuitives also. In my book,
I talk about what in the early 1800's was called "snap diagnosis,"
which is where a doctor simply gives a diagnosis of the patient,
without any information, without ever seeing the patient. This was a
"guy thing." This may infuriate people, but it's an historic fact. This
took place in the medical schools of Europe in the early 1800's, where
you had all these male professors in the medical schools competing with
each other, about who could be the best at this game of "snap
diagnosis." They were incredibly talented. Some of them could tell the
diagnosis by just thinking. Some could tell the diagnosis just by
looking at a drawing of the patient. They could even tell you the
Guide: Wouldn't it be
limited to men then because they dominated the medical profession at
Dossey: Oh, absolutely. But
the point I'm trying to make is that both sexes have the talent. It's
not restricted to one or another. Medicine was totally patriarchal at
Guide: When did the
nursing movement start? And wasn't that led by women initially?
Dossey: Yes. Florence
Nightingale founded modern secular nursing in the 1850's and 1860's in
England. Actually, let me throw this in. My wife Barbara is a
cardiovascular nurse, who has a book out that's just out, called,
Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer published by Springhouse.
And she charts this female nursing development Let me say that, in
medical school, women often try to out macho the men, in order to
simply cope with the pressures of school. A lot of the feminine
intuitive instincts are overwhelmed by the experience of becoming a
doctor. I look forward to the day when women cease to knuckle under to
all the masculine pressures that are difficult to contend with in
medical school. When that day happens, I think medicine is going to
change very quickly.
Guide: I see women as
tending to be more caring and empathetic than men. Please comment on
the integration of women into the healing arts, and the teaching of
these qualities to our male healers also.
Dossey: One of the key
developments is the increasing number of women in medical schools. In
some schools, 50% or more of the class is made up of women. What we
need is for women to claim their feminine instincts, and their innate
ability for nurturing, for intuition, and for empathy, and defend them,
and stand up for them. And cease to allow them to be battered down by
the masculine pressures of medical school. This is not easy…women pay a
great price, as do men for that matter, on entering medical school.
When women begin to stand up for who they are in the educational
process of becoming a doctor, the face of medicine is going to change
Guide: Perhaps the face of
teaching medicine also.
Dossey: Teaching medicine
also, it will flow downstream. There will be a trickle down movement,
in which the face of medicine will become transformed. It will begin to
feel better to be a patient, in a medical system that honors nurturing,
intuition and empathy. Women hold the promise for greatly transforming
Guide: It would seem to me
that they would have a good running start, now that you've got prayer
awareness in so many medical schools.
Dossey: Yes…60 out of the
125 medical schools currently have courses devoted to the role of
spirituality and prayer in healing.
Guide: I noticed the very
last sentence of your book was "The rebirth has begun." Can you comment
Dossey: I think the sense
of sacredness can be reclaimed in medicine. And I think medicine can
remain scientific as this process develops. If you go back in history,
you see that early scientists were deeply spiritual, and believed that
science could be a spiritual pursuit. For example, the 17th century
scientist, Robert Boyle, who gave us Boyle's Law--he
recommended that scientists do their experiments on Sundays, as part of
their Sabbath worship. You see the sense of sacredness coming out in
studies in distant healing and intercessory prayer. I know one
researcher--who's a woman by the way--who says that
when she does these prayer experiments in her hospital and clinic, she
feels as if she's walking on holy ground. This goes to the idea that
when you do an experiment, you're opening the window--for the
Absolute, God/Goddess, Allah, whatever you want to call it, to
manifest. So I'm convinced we can recover the sense of sacredness, as
we are already doing by bringing spirituality back into hospitals and
information about Dr. Larry Dossey, visit his website at www.dosseydossey.com
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