Academic Program: The Catholic Theological Union at the University of Chicago co-sponsored "The Biology of Spirit:
Spirituality and the Science of Healing" in January 2004. The conference was promoted as a unique venture to bridge
the chasm between spirituality and science. The conference wa initiated by Mary Frolich, who had created a course by
the same name, and received grants from the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and the American Scientific Association.
"Biology of Spirit" gathered experts from seeming diverse fields of spirituality and science, to focus on integrated holistic
life experiences for body, mind and spirit. It was the first attempt for the Catholic Theological Union at the University
of Chicago to bring into conversation professionals from the various branches of medicine and psychiatry, as well as chaplains,
theologians, and spirituality experts. See the CTU newsletter, Logos (Summer 2004).
Positive Assessment by Student: Valerie D'Souza (Bernandin Scholar for Doctorate of Ministry) commented on the
conference from the viewpoint of a practical theologian. She noted deficiencies in both medicine and theology:
medicine without spirituality does not restore the "whole person", and a theological goal must be an "integrated spirituality"
of body and soul. She was happy to see "scientific medicine" acknowledge spiritual means of healing in ritual, symbol
and liturgy. The conference noted the importance of understanding "indigenous healing". Ibid.
Positive Assessment by Chaplain: Glenda R. Spearman, a pastoral professional, also attended the conference.
Problems she personally experienced in hospital work were medical staff using the chaplain as a tool ("Convince the patient
to..."), and different approaches to the value of human life ("The patient will die anyway..."). The conference pointed
out that religious values can be brought to the medical staff as well as to the patients. Values to patients included
assessment of care, giving religious values, and human consolation. Collaborative care is a hospital team goal.
State of Illinois Program: A two day program, 2 and 3 June 2004, at the Hyatt Regency Oak Brook to promote "spirituality
and ritual" for "drug treatment groups to reach out to communities of color" was sponsored by the Illinois Department of Human
Services with a contribution of $78,000 State of Illinois funds and a federal grant. The brochure notes that the conference
would begin with a Native American prayer, include an "African water ritual,' and involve singing, dancing, and Korean drumming.
"We will rejoice in music and dance and the healing prowers it brings to our communities. We will be serenaded by a
Latin jazz singer and stirred by the youth of 'Cuilture Clash' performing a traditional Cuban warrior dance," says the brochure.
Part of the State of Illinois funding was recouped by the $50 registration fee paid by each of the 700 people attending.
Positive Assessment by the Sponsor: Tracy Scruggs, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, defended
the program. The program was also federally funded, enabled attendees to earn credit toward counseling and teaching
certificates, and trained people to "incorporate spirituality and rituals to promote health and healing in the communities
we serve... This is what we do... We do put on these sorts of conferences for our providers so they can get the kind of training
they need," noted by Tracy Scruggs in the Chicago Sun Times, 14 June 2004.
Negative Assessment by Legislature: State Senator Jeff Schoenberg (Democrat, Evanston) said, "I resent the department
(of Human Services) wasting precious federal dollars on some touchy-feely, new-age, hot-tub conference." State
Representative Mary Flowers (Democrat, Chicago) protested in a letter to the DHS, "I think we miss an opportunity so often
to really impact the people..." Other lawmakers protested that the conference was in a mostly white suburb far from
the areas it was designed to reach, and for its "unusual theme" when othe human services face the possibility of major cuts.
"Psychosomatic Limits" Established by Researchers: No evidence exists that dying people can hold off for some looming
event such as Christmas or one more birthday. "Although this is something people want to believe in, even many health
professionals believe this is real," in Chicago Sun Times, 18 June 2004. Kenneth Freedland, professor of psychiatry
at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and co-author Judy Skala, published a review paper endorsing the
negative position in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in a study going back to the 1970s.
Holistic Private Physician: Alternative Medicine Inc. of Highland Park, Illinois, contracts with self-funded employers
and insurance groups to provide a network of 2,500 physicians and 100 alternative medical providers, including chiropracters,
nutritionists, and acupuncturists, and expects to earn $10 million dollars in 2002. "Medical doctors ('allopathic physicians')...
they are educated and trained to treat disease... There is little or no emphasis on prevention," says Dr. James Zechman, CEO
of the company. See Chicago Sun Times, October 2001.
Holistic Hospital Progran: Karen Koffer, MD, medical director of Evanston (Illinois) Northwestern Healthcare's
Integretive Medicine program, says, "Western medicine tends, at times, to overlook important qualities of the patient as integral
in the recovery and healing process." Alternative practices can be especially valuable in alleviating symptons that steal
from one's quality of life, so the hospital offers: neuromuscular therapy, acupuncture, herbal therapies, and qigong
(energy balancing). See "New Thinking, Ancient Practices," in Pilot (Spring 2001): 9-14. Music therapy was begun
at Evanston Hospital three years ago, and is now expanding to all three hospitals because it has been shown to have an effect
on patients' brain waves and immune systems, with a profound influence on healing (Ibid.) The Center for Compassion
in Medical Care at Evanston Hospital is sponsoring a monthly round of open-forum sessions designed to focus attention on the
human interaction between caregiver and patient, while exploring social issues related to healthcare and the often difficult
moral and ethical quesions they raise (Ibid.)
Beyond Holistic Medicine: Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., of the Yoga Research and Education Center, notes, "Although
modern medicine acknowledges that the mind plays a pivotal role in sickness and health, it is ill equipped to deal with either
spiritual emergence or spiritual emergency. This is true even of alternative or complementary medicine, which is offering
a new, holistic paradigm that takes the patient's lifestyle (behavior and attitudes) into account..." See Gerog Feuerstein,
"Spiritual Emergence, Spiritual Emergency, and Psychospiritual Healing," at the web site of the International Association
of Yoga Therapists.