The CTNS Religion & Science Course Program North-East, with the magazine "Spirituality & Health" present

The SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH Weekend Conference

March 17 – 19, 2000

Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, CT

Summarized by Paul H. Carr (


"SPIRITUALITY AND HEALTH: A Few Words on a Century of Research"

Michael E. McCullough, Ph.D., Director of Research, National Healthcare Research (NIHR), Rockville, MD. (

Dr. McCullough’s surveys show that people who attend church regularly:

  1. Live longer,
  2. Have reduced dependence on tobacco, drugs, and alcohol,
  3. Greater marital stability and
  4. Greater social support.
These benefits are particularly marked in people who are "intrinsically" religious as opposed to "extrinsically" religious (i.e. attend church for social and business contacts.)

Leaders in spirituality land health over the last century include: Francis Galton, Emile Durkheim, William James, Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung, and Gordon Allport. Spirituality is characterized by meaning and purpose, connection, experience of the sacred, and relaxation. Spirituality and religion could be used together until the 1960s when established organizations, including religion, were challenged.

"SPIRITUALITY, PRAYER, AND MEDICINE: On the Integration of Faith and Science."

Elisabeth Targ, M.D. Director, Complementary Medical Institute at California Pacific Medical Center and UCSF

Elizabeth Targ described her research on distant healing as well as the support groups she leads for women with breast cancer. She is addressing the question: "Does spirituality help women with breast cancer?" She distributed a copy of a paper she co-authored: "A Randomized Double-Blind Study of the Effect of Distant Healing in a Population with Advanced AIDS," which was published in the Deccember 1998 issue of the "Journal of Western Medicine." The 40 patients who were prayed for did statistically better than the 40 who were not. Further studies with a larger sample are recommended.

She also described other research studies such as the one done in Israel with men recovering from hernia operations. One third of men were prayed for, another third given healing tapes with positive suggestions, and the last third had no help whatever. The results were a continuum with the men prayed for recovering the fastest, the men listing to tapes next, and the control group the poorest.


Sam Keen, Ph.D. (http://, Theologian and author of best selling books "Learning to Fly" and "Fire in the Belly."

Human beings each have their own stories. In exercising what answer Paul Tillich calls the "transmoral conscience" ask the questions:

  1. What went wrong?
  2. What is ideal? &
  3. How do I get from 1 to 2?
Keen believes that we are biomythical spiritual animals whose myths affect our biology. He then showed how we consist of:
  1. Body and libido
  2. Psyche, mind, ego and superego
  3. Transcendent spirit with transmoral conscience in a community of sentient beings.
Infants get programmed with the ‘stories" or myths of parents and others around them. The "libido" tells us: "I want it right now." Sam Keen deplores that fact that our consumer dominated culture promotes this attitude with advertisements. Children, who were brought up by parents who experienced the Depression, were taught to "save before they could get." He noted that credit cards emerged in our culture at the same time as sexual freedom. The problem with the New Age movement is that it wants to get from the "body" stage to the "transcendent spirit" stage without struggling with the ambiguities that develop our "ego." Keen believes that "hardness of heart" is the root of our social problems that will not be overcome by the plethora of information now becoming available on the Internet. The spirit is manifest when we begin to transcend cultural and social myths to find answers to the questions:
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
Where am I going?
We should develop the spirit of love so that we can accept the "stories" of those who are different from us.


Dawn A. Adams, Ph.D. Founder and President Tapestry Institute for Philosophy, Religion, and the Life Sciences, Director, CTNS Religion & Science Course Program South-West. (

In introducing Dawn Adams, a (Member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Anne Foerst described (a) recent lecture tour of Australia in which (Anne) met the Aborigines. She was amazed that the tribal stories of how they migrated to Australia 60,000 years age are in substantial agreement with those of modern archeologists.

Dawn Adams started her presentation by deploring the historical misappropriation of and misinformation about Native American "stories" and healing practices. She cited Vine Deloria, who has said that Native American metaphysic is based in the two-fold notions of Power and Place. Power is the spirit of All That Is. "All that is" isthe living manifestation of the spirit and is sacred. Place establishes individual identity, which is relationship to the community, in terms of function. These two premises mean that everything is the same inside and outside and that everything is interconnected -- which means we have a responsibility for our whole environment. Disease can be caused by the disruption of the free flow of Spirit through All That Is (Power), but there are individual persons and Nations, including those of animals and plants, whose function within the whole is to heal. This led to development of a rich herbalist tradition that has been tapped by Western scientists. Asperin, for example, is from white willow bark.


Anne Foerst, D.Theol., Theological Advisor for the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Director CTNS Religion & Science Course Program Northeast

Anne Foerst interpreted the Story of Adam and Eve in Genesis Chapters 2 &3 as a metaphor for who we are. Scholars regard this Story as older than the Creation Story in Chapter 1 of Genesis: "and it was very good." Before Eve and Adam ate the apple of the knowledge of good and evil, they were according to Paul Tillich in a state of "dreaming innocence " and thus not fully human. Being human means recognizing and making decisions about the ambiguities of life and finding a balance between polarities such as individualization and participation. We are nevertheless finite. Our epistemology or methods of knowing are limited. Our brains process and interpret the visual data gathered by our eyes. It is impossible for us to remember visual images without this processing. Our perception is not passive. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Godel’s theorem show the limitations of our logical constructs. Emotion is necessary for making decisions. (Damasio’s book "Decartes Error") We humans are self-aware, sentient, and intelligent. We are also "homo narrandus." We tell stories to make sense out of the chaos of our raw perceptions and experiences and deal with the incoherence of the world.

As theological advisor to the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Foerst asks if "soul" is something that has to be designed or built into robots. They are presently designed with distributed sensors and processors in each element (i.e. fingers, arm, or leg.) These processors interact first in response to their environment and then with each other in a manner that is often impossible to predict. A central processor does not control the MIT robots. For this reason, Foerst believes that "soul" emerges when the robot interacts with other people and community. Soul is a social construct. She illustrated this with a short video from "Star Trek." Separation and alienation from community are dehumanizing.

"THE METAPHORS OF HOMO FABER AND CO-CREATOR: AN INVITATION TO HUMILITY, A RESPONSE" by T. George Harris, former editor-in-chief of "Psychology Today," "American Health," "Harvard Business Review," and "Spirituality and Health."

The key to managing modern research organizations that develop new ideas and products is to empower and involve the individual. The organization is horizontal and not hierarchical or vertical. The supervisor is an enabler and coordinator, not a dictator. The individuals do not "report" to him and organizational power is broadly distributed. Modern creativity comes from the unlikely connection between different disciplines and fields. Each individual needs to know the overall mission and goals. From that point on, the group is self-organizing. In the spirit of post-modernists, there is no absolute truth. Humility is more valuable than self-righteousness. Each one has a piece of the truth, like the blind men describing what the elephant is like (tail, trunk, feet.) Harris hopes that this model can be applied to the people of the world and that we can, in the spirit of true love, learn to appreciate and accept each other’s "story," history, and worldviews.

This model for global healing is consistent with the Native American world view that disease is caused by the disruption of the free-flow of the spirit.