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Update: Second edition (2017 ) of Materialism: Moral and Social Consequences now available.

This website is dedicated to creating an environment where bridges can be built between medical science and religion.  With the rapid progress of science and technology we should also recognize the spiritual dimension of human reality.  Human beings by nature are not purely biological entities but rather are multidimensional beings with biological, psychological, social and spiritual facets of existence.  Developing a broad and yet unified vision of health and healing will enable physicians to have a better understanding of patients and their suffering.

In the ancient world medicine and religion were intertwined and temples had dual functions of welcoming those with diseases of the body and suffering of the soul.  From the ancient dynasties of China and middle eastern kingdoms to the aboriginal empires of the Americas, the healing practices were enriched by medical knowledge as well as spiritual inspiration and wisdom.  Prayer was one of the oldest and most commonly used forms of therapy at a time when no treatment was available to assuage suffering of the human mind.

In the West the relationship between religion and science, including medicine, suffered division and for centuries there was a separation dividing these two with much contention and mistrust.  Toward the end of the 20th century there was the emergence of a revival of interest in reintegrating spirituality into medical programs of education in North American universities.  In 1994 only 17 of 126 accredited US medical schools offered courses in spirituality and medicine.  In 1998, this number increased to 39 and by 2004, 84 medical schools offered such courses(1).  Now there are over 100 medical schools in the United States with courses or seminars on spirituality and medicine.

This website extends the discussion beyond the relationship between medicine and spirituality.  It explores issues such as the meaning of suffering, the mind-soul-body relationship and introduces literature on other aspects of the interface between spirituality,  medicine science and psychology.

The following are a number of perspectives in relation to science, medicine and spirituality.

Scientific knowledge

“Scientific knowledge is the highest attainment upon the human plane, for science is the discoverer of realities.  It is of two kinds: material and spiritual.  Material science is the investigation of natural phenomena; divine science is the discovery and realization of spiritual verities.  The world of humanity must acquire both…Material and spiritual science are the two wings of human uplift and attainment.(2)

Science and religion

“Religion and science are intertwined with each other and cannot be separated.  These are two wings with which humanity must fly.” (3)

Both science and religion reach out for truth; science through the power of intellect, research and technology; religion through divine revelation and knowledge.

“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” (4)

 

Faith and medicine

“Nothing in life is more wonderful than faith – the one great moving force which we can neither weigh in the balance nor test in the crucible…Faith has always been an essential factor in the practice of medicine.”(5)

Medicine and the Soul

“Modern medicine has made significant scientific progress, but technological advancement has caused the soul and the healing bond between patient and physician to be neglected.” (6)

Spirituality and Purpose in Life

“For many people, religion forms a basis of meaning and purpose in life. The profoundly disturbing effects of illness can call into question a person’s purpose in life and work… Healing, the restoration of wholeness (including spiritual aspects) requires answers to these questions.”  (7)

 

Integrating spirituality in medical education

Over 1600 studies have been published on the association between spirituality and health.  The majority of these studies concluded that a significant relationship exists between the two.(8)

Public view of religiosity

A 1996 Gallup poll found:

– 96% of Americans believe in God

– 72% of Americans believed that their approach to life was based on religion

– Only 39% of psychiatrists and 33% of clinical psychologists admitted that religious faith was most important. (9)

Spirituality and medicine in medical school curricula

Review of the US medical schools curricula on spirituality reveals:

–  most curricula use several educational methods (i.e. lectures, small group discussion, patient interviews and readings)

–  the majority of literature reports fail to specify what particular aspects of spirituality and medicine the courses covered

–  results of the effectiveness of these course and their outcome remains to be explored.(10)

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has recommended that spirituality be addressed in medical curricula.(11)

In Canada there are medical schools which offer seminars or instruction on issues pertaining to the interface of spirituality and medicine.  At McGill University there is currently a required course for first year medical students and an elective course for fourth year medical students on spirituality, religion and medicine.

(1) A. Fortin et al, JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), 2004, 291: 2883.

(2) Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 138.

(3) Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 28.

(4) Albert Einstein, 1941

(5) William Osler, 1910

(6) D. Rosen, Humane Medicine, vol. 5, 1989, p. 18.

(7) Foglio & Brody, J. Fam. Pract. 1981: 27: 473-4 (in Puchalski, Acad. Med 1998.

(8) D. King et al. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 2004: 16(1) 64-68.

(9) Grabovac & Ganesan. Can. J. Psychiatry, 2003: 46: 171-175.

(10) A. Fortin et al. JAMA, 2004: 291:2883.

(11) D. King et al. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 2004: 16(1) 64-68.

Dr. A-M. Ghadirian’s e-mail address for this website is as follows:

amghadirian[insert “@”here]medicineandspirituality.com