In so-called "modern medicine" three distinct stages exist. The first one, which I call Era I, dates to the mid-1800s when medicine first began to be a science, a method of practice supported by respected theories and undergirded by the accepted laws of nature. Scientists at that time regarded the entire world, including human bodies, as a machine, and consciousness as a material process that could be equated with the workings of the physical brain.
A hundred years later, however, the grip of this mechanical vision began to loosen. By the mid-1900s, physicians and scientists had begun to rediscover an old truth--that one's mind could affect one's body, sometimes dramatically. For example, research into the so-called placebo response confirmed that expectations and "positive thinking" could alter the perception of pain as well as the response to various medications. Moreover, research revealed that illnesses such as hypertension and peptic ulcers might arise when humans and animals were subjected to physical and psychological stress. As a result, mind-body medicine developed and a new epoch, Era II, began to take shape.
Now, as the millennium turns, another era of medicine--Era III--is dawning. Its hallmark is nonlocal or infinite mind. In Era III, consciousness itself is freed from the body and has the potential to act not just locally
on one's own body, as in Era II, but also the capacity to act nonlocally
on distant things, events, and people, even though they may be unaware they are being influenced.
We have all experienced events that don't fit our common-sense view of reality. Some Era III "anomalies" include telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, visions, prophetic dreams, instances of unexplained breakthroughs related to scientific or creative discoveries, the sharing of physical symptoms between individuals, distant healing, and intercessory prayer. Some researchers, searching for fresher, more scientific terms, have begun to call these events "anomalous cognition"or the results of "distant intentionality." But no matter what term is chosen, the bottom line is the same: The mind is acting at a distance from the brain and body, and often outside the present moment. This phenomenon occurs when someone calls just as we're thinking of them, or more dramatically, when we see a specific problem in our body or the body of a loved one before any symptoms appear.
Resistance to Era III comes from an inability to accept the concept of nonlocal mind. Because of its nonmaterial properties, Era III feels strange and uncomfortable. In spite of scientific evidence, many still cling to a more mechanistic, materialistic world view. They "know" that consciousness is local, that it located in the brain, the body, and the present moment. But just as mind-body medicine is now gaining popular acceptance, so, too, will nonlocal mind gain credence and become critical to a new understanding of ourselves and others.
I used to believe that we must choose between science and reason on the one hand, and spirituality on the other. Now I consider this a false choice because in my own life I have found that science and spirituality can coexist and even flourish. I have discovered that many great scientists have agreed with this point of view, including Robert Boyle, the 17th-century chemist and author of Boyle's Law. Boyle called scientists "priests of nature," and because he believed science was sacred, he recommended that scientists perform their experiments on Sundays as part of their Sabbath worship. Era III makes it possible to recover the sense of sacredness that Boyle recognized, not just in science but perhaps in every area of life, including our own health.
Many might view Era III as science fiction. But today half of the nation's 125 medical schools have developed formal courses exploring the role of spirituality and distant prayer in healing. Mainstream medical institutions such as Duke Medical Center have programs in which prayer-based interventions are employed, with positive results. Scientific studies continue to emerge showing the power of healing intentions and prayer to make a difference in illnesses such as heart disease and AIDS. These developments will continue. As they do, medicine will be reshaped to combine Eras I, II, and III into a seamless whole. The result will be a form of healing that works better--and feels better--than anything that has come before.