"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Friday, 27 December 2013

History of Medicine contd: Dossey's ERAs of Medicine

Last post on this blog I wrote about Eric Cassell and Leslie Weatherhead, both active in the 1900s in trying to educate the medical profession towards a greater “healing” ethos in medical practice.

When I started researching for my book on the Wounded Healer (Healing This Wounded Earth) information on Weatherhead was not so easy to come by and I had to satisfy myself with a very old secondhand copy of the revised 1955 version of his thesis, which I treasure as being an important influence from which much of my early research progressed. It is surely a positive sign of change in our attitudes towards spirituality and a resurgence of interest in the links between spirituality and medicine that Weatherhead’s thesis has been made available again as a reprint in 2008.

And now, forty years after Weatherhead, we have Larry Dossey who has looked back on what he saw as a new era in medicine from the 1950s, but said that the then prevailing study of the mind/body question within medicine would be more accurately described as the brain/body question to reflect the widespread scientific attitude of the time. This was the medicine of physicians such as Eric Cassell, a phase that Dossey calls ERA II in the development of medicine to follow on from the first 100 years or so of what he called mechanical medicine which he identified as ERA I.

Like Weatherhead,
Dossey foresaw and hoped for the start of a new era, ERA III, when the importance of the soul would properly be recognized and even the field of ‘non local’ approaches to healing, such as prayer, would also be seen as a respectable further therapy within mainstream medicine (1)
Dossey of course continues to expand on and develop this theme to this day although there is a long way to go in gaining wider acceptance of these views.
Weatherhead was not only a renowned preacher who regularly packed the church with up to 1000 people who came just to hear him. He was also a true visionary, with ideas ahead of his time, exploring as he did the mind/body aspects of healthcare within the spiritual paradigm. At the time those who supported such ideas must have felt like voices lost in the wilderness of the inexorable march of scientific progress and medical positivism. To an extent we still do!!


(1) Dossey, Larry, Healing Words - The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine New York: Harper Collins Publishers 1993, p. xv Preface and p.44. This is one of his early books.

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