THE role of spirituality in medicine and healing is being explored in a major conference that continues today and tomorrow in Boston. That the conference is even occurring is in some ways a measure of how medical thinking has evolved in recent years. Mainstream medicine has not suddenly stormed past the boundaries of conventional practice, but a mass of credible data does document the positive effects of spirituality on health and healing. The Los Angeles Times reported recently, "Researchers are studying the effects of prayer and meditation on healing. But some have already given their blessings to the mind-body approach."
The Founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy, spent much of her life pioneering the field of healing through spiritual means. While she never saw spiritual healing as an exclusively Christian possibility, she did accept the healing work of Christ Jesus as the ultimate example. She perceived that the power of God comes to those in need and brings them hope and healing, and that the basis of Jesus' healing works remains universally available, though it is largely untried. His practice of spiritual healing involved prayer and wholehearted trust in God. This practice is repeatable by others. It deserves close examination because Jesus' success as a healer remains unmatched.
Do Biblical accounts of Jesus' cures constitute relevant and credible data on spiritual healing? Not everyone thinks so. That's too bad. He healed blindness, deafness, lameness, insanity, epilepsy, and serious skin diseases, among many other maladies. To this day his healing work stands, even if, in some respects, the recordkeeping of it does not. And if accounts of his healing works don't comply with today's standards for credible scientific data, they do offer unequaled insight into how such healing occurs.
To take just one instance, Jesus found it important to remove fear as a step in healing. In one case, a father came to Jesus, urging him to save his dying daughter. Before Jesus reached her, a messenger arrived with the news that she had died. But Jesus said, "Be not afraid, only believe" (Mark 5:36). Those five words communicated an understanding that all was well, that there really was no need for fear. And so it proved. The girl was revived and healed.
Jesus' healings hint that science and Christianity don't exclude one another. They intersect. That intersection is where Christian healing is found to have reliability to it-where Christian healing proves to be scientific and significant today. Bringing spirituality to bear on sickness isn't a case of merely wishing, or pushing reason aside recklessly. Instead of drawing on the powers of the human mind, spirituality draws on the highest power available-God's power.
The phrase "mind-body approach" usually refers to the effects of the human mind on the body. But this doesn't really capture the essence of Christ Jesus' healing. True, his method could be termed mental, but it was spiritually so. Human thought was not the healing agent. Actually, Christian healing involves putting off what St. Paul called "the carnal mind," and yielding to the divine Mind, which is God. It is to God, the one Mind, that thought must turn if truly reliable healing is to take place. This carries the patient further than just the restoration of health; it reveals the man who is perfect as God made him.
Erroneous states of thought-fear, stress, anxiety-might well be the root of physical ills. Jesus' view of man as God's child enabled him to target those mental errors. Over and over again, health was the natural consequence. Commenting on his method of healing, Mrs. Eddy once wrote in a book entitled Rudimental Divine Science: "Jesus' healing was spiritual in its nature, method, and design. He wrought the cure of disease through the divine Mind, which gives all true volition, impulse, and action; and destroys the mental error made manifest physically, and establishes the opposite manifestation of Truth upon the body in harmony and health" (p. 3).
So, a conference on spirituality and healing in the late twentieth century signals that many have a desire to break past the limits of traditional medicine. Willingness to look back at first-century Christian healing may help chart the way forward.