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The Role of Spirituality in Integrative Preventive Medicine: The Postmaterialist Paradigm 

The Role of Spirituality in Integrative Preventive Medicine: The Postmaterialist Paradigm
The Role of Spirituality in Integrative Preventive Medicine: The Postmaterialist Paradigm

Gary E. Schwartz

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When asked, “Do you believe in immortality?” he replied,

“No, and one life is enough for me.”

Albert Einstein

I regard consciousness as fundamental.

I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.

We cannot get behind consciousness.

Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard

as existing, postulates consciousness.

Max Planck


Religion and/or spirituality play important roles in the majority of people’s lives worldwide. National and international surveys have historically indicated that approximately 90% of the world’s populations believe in some sort of a higher power or intelligence and that this being/entity can sometimes play a role in health and healing.

As summarized by Rayburn,1 religion can be defined as “ ‘the service, worship of God or the supernatural’; devotion or commitment to religious observations or faith; a personal set of doctrines or ‘institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.’ ”

In contrast, Rayburn and Richard2 conceive of spirituality as having three factors:

  1. 1. Transcendence, involving seeking goodness and truth and valuing peacefulness, cooperation, and forgiveness,

  2. 2. Spiritual Growth, involving realizing and attending to hypothesized influences on one’s life (e.g., God, Higher Power, nature, trusted guides or teachers, etc.), and

  3. 3. Caring for Others, involving people, animals, plants, and ultimately everything in the universe.

Rayburn clarifies the distinction between religion and spirituality in the following ways. I have paraphrased her words for the purpose of clarity and consistency, and have added some comments as well [GES].

Being spiritual is regarded as requiring no adherence to any religious belief. [GES—it should be recognized that people can regularly participate in religious practices or dogma and yet not accept or endorse particular metaphysical/spiritual beliefs of their religions].

A spiritual person might be religious or might be (Rayburn’s words) “churched, unchurched, agnostic, or atheistic.” [GES—just as there are levels and degrees of religious practice, there are levels and degrees of spirituality.]

Whereas religiousness is typically regarded as doctrinal, holding to specific tenets of a faith system, and usually involving an organized community of believers, spirituality is more concerned with (Rayburn’s words) “fervent caring for others, searching for the good and true, and recognizing the guidance of forces outside of oneself that influenced one’s life paths.” [GES—note that in many instances, religious dogmas may clash with these spiritual factors, especially the honest search for truth and goodness that is the hallmark of responsible and caring science].

Given the scope and spectrum of cognitive, emotional, and social components inherent in religion and spirituality, it is not surprising that religion and spirituality have been found to play a role in people’s physical, psychological, and spiritual health and well-being.

Religion, Spirituality, and Health

The purpose of this chapter is not to review the extensive literature linking religion and spirituality to health and wellness. This research has been extensively presented in the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Health3 and Part Six of the Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality,4 and it is concisely summarized in Koenig.5 It is also reviewed in a special issue of the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine devoted to the topic of spirituality and health.

The scope and spectrum of the evidence can be grasped by examining the individual chapter topics in the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Health.3 For effects of religion on mental health (Part III), the chapters include well-being and positive emotions, depression, suicide, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, alcohol and drug use, delinquency and crime, marital instability, and personality and personality disorder. For effects of religion on physical health (Part IV), the chapters include heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, immune functions, endocrine functions, cancer, mortality, physical disability, pain and somatic systems, and health behaviors.

Given the complexity of the cognitive, emotional, and social variables inherently involved in religion and spirituality, it should not be surprising that the comprehensive models proposed for understanding their effects on health are complex.

Figure 8.1 (from Koenig5), presents a theoretical model of causal pathways for mental health, based on Western monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).

Figure 8.1 Theoretical Model of Causal Pathways for Mental Health Based on Western Monotheistic Religions (reference 5)

Figure 8.1 Theoretical Model of Causal Pathways for Mental Health Based on Western Monotheistic Religions (reference 5)

The multivariate complexity of the psychosocial factors involved in religion helps to explain why religion can have such a wide scope and spectrum of effects on mental health. And Koenig’s list is not complete. For example, love and caring are not made explicit in this model.

The same applies to physical health. Figure 8.2 (also from Koenig5), presents a theoretical model of causal pathways for physical health, again based on Western monotheistic religions.

Figure 8.2 Theoretical Model of Causal Pathways for Physical Health Based on Western Monotheistic Religions (reference 5)

Figure 8.2 Theoretical Model of Causal Pathways for Physical Health Based on Western Monotheistic Religions (reference 5)

Koenig’s comprehensive models are employed to help explain clinician’s observations of the positive effects of mainstream religious practices on health, hardiness, and resilience. They include:

  1. 1. Individual prayer,

  2. 2. Group prayer,

  3. 3. Group singing and chanting,

  4. 4. Loving social support received from spiritual leaders and practitioners, and

  5. 5. Individual and family psychosocial counseling provided by religious leaders.

Koenig’s theoretical models are also used to help explain the positive effects of what Jonas et al6 refer to as “spiritual-body practices.” As listed by Jonas et al,6 these practices include:

  1. 1. Shalom Process—a type of “divine healing” involving the development of the “Principles and Skills of Loving.” These tenets are said to be the foundation of an integrative approach to healing through “exploration of the energetic blocks created in our bodies by traumas that prevent us from being fully alive and experiencing the fullness of divine love.”

  2. 2. Transcendental Meditation—a meditative practice derived from the ancient Vedic traditions and popularized in the 1960s and 1970s.

  3. 3. Heart Rate Coherence Training—the use of heart rate variability in the psychospiritual training developed by the Heart Math Corporation ( In this process, persons are trained to regulate heart rate coherence, usually by cultivating a sense of appreciation and loving kindness.

  4. 4. Prayer and Laying On of Hands—including practices of energy and spiritual healing, including touch as well as distant intentionality.

  5. 5. Relaxation Response—a coordinate physiological response first described by Benson,7 which presumably has been elicited by many religious and spiritual traditions throughout the world for thousands of years.

From Materialist to Postmaterialist Models

One might think from the above overview that conventional concepts in neuroscience and psychology would be sufficient to understand and predict the effects of religion and spirituality on health and wellness. However, this is not case. Instead, there is a growing recognition in certain areas of science that the above “materialistic” concepts are insufficient to account for the totality of the observations and evidence linking religion, spirituality, and health.

Scientists from a variety of scientific fields (biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, psychiatry) participated in an international summit on postmaterialist science, spirituality, and society. The summit was co-organized by Gary E. Schwartz, PhD, and Mario Beauregard, PhD, the University of Arizona, and Lisa Miller, PhD, Columbia University. The summit was held at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, on February 7–9, 2014. The purpose was to discuss the impact of the materialist ideology on science and the emergence of a postmaterialist paradigm for science, spirituality, and society.7

Because of its historic significance and deep relevance to understanding religion, spirituality, and health, the text of an editorial written by Beauregard, Schwartz, Miller, et al8 on the evolution of “post-materialistic science” is included (by permission) here. The following conclusions were reached:

  1. 1. The modern scientific worldview is predominantly predicated on assumptions that are closely associated with classical physics. Materialism—the idea that matter is the only realityis one of these assumptions. A related assumption is reductionism, the notion that complex things can be understood by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things such as tiny material particles.

  2. 2. During the 19th century, these assumptions narrowed, turned into dogmas, and coalesced into an ideological belief system that came to be known as “scientific materialism.” This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts cannot have any effect upon our brains and bodies, our actions, and the physical world.

  3. 3. The ideology of scientific materialism became dominant in academia during the 20th century. So dominant that a majority of scientists started to believe that it was based on established empirical evidence, and represented the only rational view of the world.

  4. 4. Scientific methods based upon materialistic philosophy have been highly successful in not only increasing our understanding of nature but also in bringing greater control and freedom through advances in technology.

  5. 5. However, the nearly absolute dominance of materialism in the academic world has seriously constricted the sciences and hampered the development of the scientific study of mind and spirituality. Faith in this ideology, as an exclusive explanatory framework for reality, has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.

  6. 6. Science is first and foremost a non-dogmatic, open-minded method of acquiring knowledge about nature through the observation, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. Its methodology is not synonymous with materialism and should not be committed to any particular beliefs, dogmas, or ideologies.

  7. 7. At the end of the 19th century, physicists discovered empirical phenomena that could not be explained by classical physics. This led to the development, during the 1920s and early 1930s, of a revolutionary new branch of physics called quantum mechanics (QM). QM has questioned the material foundations of the world by showing that atoms and subatomic particles are not really solid objectsthey do not exist with certainty at definite spatial locations and definite times. Most importantly, QM explicitly introduced the mind into its basic conceptual structure since it was found that particles being observed and the observer—the physicist and the method used for observation—are linked. According to one interpretation of QM, this phenomenon implies that the consciousness of the observer is vital to the existence of the physical events being observed, and that mental events can affect the physical world. The results of recent experiments support this interpretation. These results suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, and that it cannot be fully understood without making reference to the mind.

  8. 8. Psychological studies have shown that conscious mental activity can causally influence behavior, and that the explanatory and predictive value of agentic factors (e.g., beliefs, goals, desires and expectations) is very high. Moreover, research in psychoneuroimmunology indicates that our thoughts and emotions can markedly affect the activity of the physiological systems (e.g., immune, endocrine, cardiovascular) connected to the brain. In other respects, neuroimaging studies of emotional self-regulation, psychotherapy, and the placebo effect demonstrate that mental events significantly influence the activity of the brain.

  9. 9. Studies of the so-called “psi phenomena” indicate that we can sometimes receive meaningful information without the use of ordinary senses, and in ways that transcend the habitual space and time constraints. Furthermore, psi research demonstrates that we can mentally influence—at a distance—physical devices and living organisms (including other human beings). Psi research also shows that distant minds may behave in ways that are nonlocally correlated, i.e., the correlations between distant minds are hypothesized to be unmediated (they are not linked to any known energetic signal), unmitigated (they do not degrade with increasing distance), and immediate (they appear to be simultaneous). These events are so common that they cannot be viewed as anomalous nor as exceptions to natural laws, but as indications of the need for a broader explanatory framework that cannot be predicated exclusively on materialism.

  10. 10. Conscious mental activity can be experienced in clinical death during a cardiac arrest (this is what has been called a “near-death experience” [NDE]). Some near-death experiencers (NDErs) have reported veridical out-of-body perceptions (i.e., perceptions that can be proven to coincide with reality) that occurred during cardiac arrest. NDErs also report profound spiritual experiences during NDEs triggered by cardiac arrest. It is noteworthy that the electrical activity of the brain ceases within a few seconds following a cardiac arrest.

  11. 11. Controlled laboratory experiments have documented that skilled research mediums (people who claim that they can communicate with the minds of people who have physically died) can sometimes obtain highly accurate information about deceased individuals. This further supports the conclusion that mind can exist separate from the brain.

  12. 12. Some materialistically inclined scientists and philosophers refuse to acknowledge these phenomena because they are not consistent with their exclusive conception of the world. Rejection of postmaterialist investigation of nature or refusal to publish strong science findings supporting a post-materialist framework are antithetical to the true spirit of scientific inquiry, which is that empirical data must always be adequately dealt with. Data which do not fit favored theories and beliefs cannot be dismissed a priori. Such dismissal is the realm of ideology, not science.

  13. 13. It is important to realize that psi phenomena, NDEs in cardiac arrest, and replicable evidence from credible research mediums, appear anomalous only when seen through the lens of materialism.

  14. 14. Moreover, materialist theories fail to elucidate how brain could generate the mind, and they are unable to account for the empirical evidence alluded to in this manifesto. This failure tells us that it is now time to free ourselves from the shackles and blinders of the old materialist ideology, to enlarge our concept of the natural world, and to embrace a post-materialist paradigm.

  15. 15. According to the post-materialist paradigm:

    1. a. Mind represents an aspect of reality as primordial as the physical world. Mind is fundamental in the universe, i.e., it cannot be derived from matter and reduced to anything more basic.

    2. b. There is a deep interconnectedness between mind and the physical world.

    3. c. Mind (will/intention) can influence the state of the physical world, and operate in a nonlocal (or extended) fashion, i.e., it is not confined to specific points in space, such as brains and bodies, nor to specific points in time, such as the present. Since the mind may nonlocally influence the physical world, the intentions, emotions, and desires of an experimenter may not be completely isolated from experimental outcomes, even in controlled and blinded experimental designs.

    4. d. Minds are apparently unbounded, and may unite in ways suggesting a unitary, One Mind that includes all individual, single minds.

    5. e. NDEs in cardiac arrest suggest that the brain acts as a transceiver of mental activity, i.e., the mind can work through the brain, but is not produced by it. NDEs occurring in cardiac arrest, coupled with evidence from research mediums, further suggest the survival of consciousness, following bodily death, and the existence of other levels of reality that are non-physical.

    6. f. Scientists should not be afraid to investigate spirituality and spiritual experiences since they represent a central aspect of human existence.

  16. 16. Post-materialist science does not reject the empirical observations and great value of scientific achievements realized up until now. It seeks to expand the human capacity to better understand the wonders of nature, and in the process rediscover the importance of mind and spirit as being part of the core fabric of the universe. Post-materialism is inclusive of matter, which is seen as a basic constituent of the universe.

  17. 17. The post-materialist paradigm has far-reaching implications. It fundamentally alters the vision we have of ourselves, giving us back our dignity and power, as humans and as scientists. This paradigm fosters positive values such as compassion, respect, and peace. By emphasizing a deep connection between ourselves and nature at large, the post-materialist paradigm also promotes environmental awareness and the preservation of our biosphere. In addition, it is not new, but only forgotten for four hundred years, that a lived transmaterial understanding may be the cornerstone of health and wellness, as it has been held and preserved in ancient mind-body-spirit practices, religious traditions, and contemplative approaches.

  18. 18. The shift from materialist science to post-materialist science may be of vital importance to the evolution of the human civilization. It may be even more pivotal than the transition from geocentrism to heliocentrism.

Schwartz9 has expanded on these points by proposing a heuristic framework for classifying three types of postmaterialist theories:

  • Type I Postmaterialist Theories: Neophysical theories that are derived from materialist theories, where the materialist theories are seen as primary and are viewed as being fundamentally necessary to create “nonmaterial” (yet physical) phenomena such as consciousness.

  • Type II Postmaterialist Theories: Postmaterialist theories of consciousness existing alongside materialist theories, where each class of theories is seen as primary and viewed as not being derivable from (i.e., is not reducible to) the other, and

  • Type III Postmaterialist Theories: Where materialist theories are derived from, and are a subset of, more inclusive postmaterialist theories of consciousness; here postmaterialist theories are seen as primary and are viewed as the ultimate origin of material systems.

Type 1 theories are the least controversial; Type III theories are the most controversial.

The materialist reader may wonder whether established findings from neuroscience allow for a postmaterialist paradigm. As explained below, the answer is a definitive yes.

Does Consciousness Require a Brain?

Though relatively few biomedical scientists and neuroscientists recognize this important fact, it turns out that the three core methods used by neuroscience to come to the conclusion that the brain “creates consciousness” are the identical core methods used by electrical engineers and computer scientists to come to the conclusion that radios, televisions, and smart phones are “antenna/receiver/transceivers” for external signals. The logic is explained in Schwartz,10 and is quoted (by permission, and updated) below.

There are three types of experimental evidence that together seem to point to the conclusion that consciousness is created by the brain. The word “seem” is emphasized here because careful examination of the totality of evidence, when viewed from the perspective of electronics and electrical engineering, reveals how the evidence is actually as consistent with the explanation that the mind is separate from the brain as it is with the explanation that the mind is created by the brain. Unfortunately it is not widely appreciated by mainstream scientists that the three experimental approaches used to investigate mind–brain relationships do not, by themselves, require a materialistic conclusion—and they are wholly consistent with a nonmaterialistic (postmaterialist) explanation.

The three kinds of evidence are as follows:

  1. 1.Evidence from recordings—Neuroscientists record brain waves (via electroencephalograms [EEGs]) using sensitive electronic devices. For example, it is well known that occipital alpha waves decrease when people see visual objects or imagine them.

  2. 2.Evidence from stimulation—Various areas of the brain can be stimulated using electrodes placed inside the head or magnetic coils placed outside the head. For example, stimulation of the occipital cortex is typically associated with people experiencing visual sensations and images.

  3. 3.Evidence from ablation—Various areas of the brain can be removed with surgical techniques (or areas can be damaged through injury or disease). For example, when areas of the occipital cortex are damaged, people and lower animals lose aspects of vision.

The generally accepted—and seemingly commonsense—neuroscience interpretation of this set of findings is that visual experience is created by the brain.

However, the critical question is whether this creation of consciousness explanation is the only possible interpretation of this set of findings?

The answer is actually no. The three kinds of evidence are also consistent with the brain as being a receiver of external consciousness information.

The reasoning is straightforward and is illustrated in electronics and electrical engineering (the same logic applies to computer science). Though it is rare to discuss an electronics example in the context of handbook of preventive medicine (especially in a chapter focused on religion and spirituality), it turns out to be prudent and productive to do so here.

Consider the television (be it analog or digital). It is well known—and generally accepted—that televisions work as receivers for processing information carried by external electromagnetic fields oscillating in specific frequency bands. Television receivers do not create the visual information (i.e., they are not the source of the information) —they detect the information, amplify it, process it, and display it.

Moreover, today’s “smart” televisions (as well as smart phones) can actually function as “transceivers,” both receiving and transmitting information.

As mentioned earlier, it is not generally appreciated that electrical engineers conduct the same three kinds of experiments as neuroscientists do. The parallel between the brain and the television is essentially perfect.

  1. 1.Evidence from recordings—Electrical engineers can monitor signals inside the television set using sensitive electronic devices. For example, electrodes can be placed on particular components in circuits that correlate with the visual images seen on the screen.

  2. 2.Evidence from stimulation—Electrical engineers can stimulate various components of the television using electrodes placed inside the television set or magnetic coils placed outside the set. For example, particular circuits can be stimulated with specific patterns of information, and replicable patterns can be observed on the TV screen.

  3. 3.Evidence from ablation—Electrical engineers can remove various components from the television (or areas can be damaged or wear out). For example, key components can be removed and the visual images on the screen will disappear.

However, do these three kinds of evidence imply that the source or origin of the TV signals is inside the television—that is, that the television created the signals? The answer is obviously no. Televisions (or smart phones) require antennas (or cables) to receive signals that are external to the devices/systems.

It should be clear how this basic logic—as applied to television receivers—can equally be applied to neural network (brain) receivers. The three kinds of evidence (correlation, stimulation, and ablation) only allow us to conclude that television sets—as well as brains—play some sort of role in visual experience. The truth is that the three kinds of evidence, by themselves, do not tell us whether either television sets or brains:

  1. 1. “self-create” the information internally—the materialist assumption, or

  2. 2. function as complex receivers of external information—which allows for both survival of consciousness after death and a larger spiritual reality.

In other words, the three kinds of evidence, by themselves, do not speak to (and do not enable us to determine) whether the signals—the information fields—are:

  1. 1. coming from inside the system (the materialistic interpretation applied to brains),


  1. 2. coming from outside the system (the interpretation routinely applied to televisions).

It follows that additional kinds of experiments are required to distinguish between the “self-creation” versus “receiver” hypotheses.

Experiments on life after death with skilled research mediums (e.g., Beischel and Schwartz11) provide an important fourth kind of evidence that can neither be predicted nor explained by the self-creation (i.e., materialism) hypothesis, but it can be predicted and explained by the receiver/transceiver hypothesis

It should be noted that in physics, external electromagnetic fields are not labeled as being “material” per se. These fields do not have mass (e.g., they do not have weight) and they are invisible; they are described by a set of equations that characterize an as-yet-unexplained property of the “vacuum” of space (which may be empty of “mass” but is actually full of energy and information).

Applications to the Role of Spirituality in Integrative Preventive Medicine

There are many important and innovative applications of postmaterialist science to understanding and applying spiritual concept and practices to integrative medicine treatment and prevention. These examples are not listed in any particular order.

Example 1: Higher Power Healing Hypothesis

Consider various implementations of the Twelve Step Program to the treatment and prevention of addictions (e.g., alcohol, drug, sexual, etc.). Material scientists and practitioners prefer to explain the positive effects observed as being due to conventional psychosocial factors such as group support, catharsis, motivation, expectation, and belief (including placebo). The founder’s belief that an addict’s accepting and connecting to a “Higher Power” is the central healing component in AA is typically reinterpreted by materialist scientists and practitioners using nonspiritual, psychosocial concepts (e.g., placebo effects).

However, what if a greater spiritual reality exists as predicted by postmaterialist science? If so, then it becomes rationally possible that the mindful acceptance and connection with a Higher Power actually enhances Its capacity to contribute to the person’s regulation of their addictive experiences and behaviors.

An integrative approach requires that we combine documented psychosocial (materialist) variables and processes with emerging psychoenergetic and psychospiritual (postmaterialist) variables and processes. In fact, as science provides theoretical and empirical support for the Higher Power hypothesis, this provides an added rationale and incentive for addicts and practitioners to foster increased acceptance and connection with a Higher Power.

Example 2: Spirit-Assisted Healing Hypothesis

Though most mainstream materialist scientists prefer to avoid these facts, the truth is that most energy healers—be they trained in Western practices such as Healing Touch and Reconnection, or Eastern practices such as Reiki and Johrei—believe that their healing powers come from (1) their ability to receive and direct some sort of universal intelligent and loving energy (whose intelligence, wisdom, and healing abilities are far beyond those of the healers—this is another application of the Higher Power healing hypothesis), and (2) the assistance they receive from deceased persons (often deceased physicians and nurses) as well as “higher spiritual beings” such as guides and angels.

When viewed through the paradigm lens of materialism, such beliefs are interpreted as superstitions contributing to placebo effects. However, when viewed through the expanded paradigm lens of postmaterialism, such beliefs become not only plausible but also rational hypotheses capable of being tested scientifically.

Schwartz12 conducted a proof-of-concept experiment testing claims of spirit-assisted healing professed by a research-oriented clinical psychologist formally trained in healing touch (HT). The psychologist believed that he often received important assistance from his deceased physician father, and that one of the ways he knew that his father was collaborating in healing the patient was that HT’s hands would become warm.

After determining that a laboratory-tested, claimant evidential medium (CEM) could accurately receive information from the deceased physician, Schwartz designed the following 10- session experiment:

The night before a given session, the CEM was instructed to contact the hypothesized deceased physician, and the CEM would request that the deceased physician show up at the next healing session either (1) immediately upon beginning the session, or (2) post the middle of the session.

Only the CEM knew which condition (immediate or midway) applied to the next session. Five of the sessions would implement the immediate condition and five the midway condition.

The following day, the HT would conduct a normal energy healing and pay close attention to whether his hands warmed up (1) immediately upon beginning the session, or (2) post the middle of the session. After the 10 sessions were completed, the experimenter compared the CEM and HT records and performed a nonparametric analysis.

The analysis indicated a 100% match (10 out of 10, Yates correct Chi Square p < .04). These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that HT was correctly identifying the apparent presence of the purported deceased physician. Future research can test the spirit-assisted healing hypothesis by comparing (1) sessions when specific hypothesized deceased healing individuals are present in healing sessions with (2) sessions when no hypothesized deceased persons are invited to collaborate. Such experiments can be conducted double blinded.

The author has interviewed dozens of gifted research-oriented energy healers who are convinced that the spirit-assisted healing hypothesis is valid.

Example 3: Divine Love Meditation Hypothesis

Secular meditation techniques like transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation, including loving kindness meditation, typically do not encourage the meditators to focus on divine love and caring. However, spiritually oriented meditators in general, and spiritually oriented healers in particular, often focus on spiritual processes, including proposed angels, guides, and the divine.

Beginning in 2010, the author has offered a weekly energy self-care workshop at Canyon Ranch titled “Awakening the Power Within.” The workshop teaches guests four skills: (1) how to sense energy with their hands; (2) how to give themselves energy, including healing energy; (3) how to protect themselves against negative energy; and (4) how to send loving energy to others. The author uses the principle “energy flows where the loving mind goes.”

One technique has the person putting their left hand over their heart and their right hand over their abdomen. As the person inhales, she is requested to imagine or feel the energy flowing up her left arm into her left hand as she silently thinks to herself “love heart,” and as she exhales, she is to imagine or feeling the energy flowing down her right arm into her right hand as she silently thinks to herself “love breath.” In over 500 cases, only a handful of persons have not reported feelings of relaxation and peacefulness.

However, in approximately 50 cases where the individuals have spontaneously reported that they are spiritual people, I have invited guests to repeat the same procedure only this time substituting the phrase “Divine love heart” and “Divine love breath.” Only a few persons have not reported feelings of even greater relaxation and peacefulness with the addition of the divine focus. Moreover, I have compared the “love X” versus “Divine love X” energy healing meditations when lecturing to groups of healers and practitioners (e.g., audience sizes of 200 to 300 participants). The vast majority of participants report experiencing the divine love condition as more intense and integrative (i.e., expanding their awareness more fully to their whole body).

Though the Canyon Ranch workshop is taught as a self-care workshop, it ends with a discussion of the value of parents and grandparents teaching such concepts and techniques to their young children and grandchildren for the purpose of physical, emotional, and spiritual health promotion and disease prevention.

Example 4: The Synchronicity Wellness Hypothesis

From a materialist perspective, apparent nonrandom co-occurrences of seemingly meaningful events are typically (1) described as being coincidental events, and (2) interpreted as being due to randomness or chance. However, some combinations of events are so statistically improbable as to be “too coincidental to be accidental,” and they potentially serve as empirical evidence of an interactive greater spiritual reality.

In a series of papers, Schwartz has documented multiple cases of what are termed Type III synchronicities (i.e., sequences containing six or move interrelated events in a defined period of time). The totality of the evidence supports the postmaterialist hypothesis that nonrandom synchronicities can sometimes be mediated by spiritual forces, including (1) discarnates (physically deceased persons/spirits), and (2) a Higher Power.

Beginning in 2015, the author has offered a weekly workshop at Canyon Ranch titled “Synchronicity and Spiritual Wellness.” The workshop teaches guests how to understand basic methods of science (termed “self-science”) and apply these techniques in the “laboratories of our personal lives.” As reported in Synchronicity and the One Mind,16 people who believe in synchronicities, pay attention to them, and attempt to interpret their potential meaning(s), tend to experience more hopeful, optimistic, peaceful, grateful, and wonder-filled lives. All of these emotions are associated with positive health and well-being.

Example 5: The Spiritual Immunity Hypothesis

Many religions and cultures believe in the existence of the “evil eye,” “negative spirits,” “dark forces,” and/or “the devil.” Materialism treats their ideas as superstitions and myths. In contrast, postmaterialist science recognizes the possibility that “negative forces” can exist and potentially be harmful to unsuspecting individuals.

For example, when principles of electromagnetic and quantum fields are applied to the survival of consciousness hypothesis, predicting how the energy and information of a physical person continues in the vacuum of space after a person has physically died, this hypothesis is not limited to the energy and information of loving, positive people, but it includes the energy and information of hateful, negative people as well. Experiments with research mediums confirm the continued existence of “negative spirits” as well as positive ones.

It is possible that the reason for the existence of the so-called veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is the purpose of protection from negative spirits. Moreover, just as the human body has a cellular immune system, the mind/psyche might have a spiritual immune system as well. This hypothesis is consistent with reports of healers who claim not only that patients sometimes need to be treated for the presence of “negative entities” but also that various techniques can be applied to strengthen one’s spiritual immunity. These techniques span the full range of integrative health practices, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Teaching people about the concept of spiritual immunity could be part of integrative preventive medicine of the future.

It is worth noting that the distinction in physics between energy and information might have a meaningful parallel in semantic differences between the terms “spirit” and “soul.” It has been proposed (and I paraphrase slightly) that “spirit is to soul as energy is to information.”17 Together energy and information, spirit and soul, may reflect a core quality of a greater spiritual reality.


As the quotes that introduce this chapter express, distinguished physicists have disagreed about which was primary in nature and the cosmos: (1) matter (e.g., Einstein), or (2) mind (e.g., Max Planck). If one favors the materialist philosophy (and paradigm), one is inclined to interpret the positive effects of religion and spirituality on health in cognitive, emotional, and social (i.e., physical) terms. However, if one favors the emerging postmaterialist philosophy (and paradigm), one is inclined to add postmaterialist explanations (including the role of consciousness, discarnates, higher spiritual beings, and the Higher Power/divine) to the materialist explanations.

Integrative medicine in general, and integrative preventive medicine in particular, should strive to integrate not only techniques and practices but also concepts and theories. The emerging postmaterialist science movement is an expression of this expansive, open (e.g.,, integrative framework. If this chapter has helped open the reader’s mind to the possible validity and opportunity of a postmaterialist approach to the role of spirituality in integrative preventive medicine, then it has achieved its goal.


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        5. Koenig HG. Religion, spirituality and health: the research and clinical implications. Int Scholarly Res Network, ISRN Psychiatry 2012; Article ID 278730, 1–33.Find this resource:

        6. Jonas WB, Fritts M, Christopher G, Jonas M, Jonas S. In Miller LJ, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2012:361–378.Find this resource:

        7. Schwartz GE, Miller LJ, Beauregard, M.International Summit on Post-Materialist Science, Spirituality, and Society: Summary Report. 2014.

        8. Beauregard M, Schwartz GE, Miller LJ, et al. Manifesto for a post-materialist science. Explore 2014;10(5):272–274.Find this resource:

        9. Schwartz GE (2016). What is the nature of a post-materialist paradigm? Three types of theories. Explore 2016;12(2):123–127.Find this resource:

        10. Schwartz GE. Consciousness, spirituality, and post-materialist science: an empirical and experiential approach. In Miller LJ, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality. New York , NY: Oxford University Press; 2012:584–597.Find this resource:

        11. Beischel J, Schwartz GE (2007). Anomalous information reception by research mediums demonstrated using a novel triple-blind protocol. Explore 2012;3(1):23–27.Find this resource:

        12. Schwartz GE.The Sacred Promise: How Science Is Discovering Spirits Collaboration with Us in Our Daily Lives. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words/Atria Books/Simon & Schuster; 2011.Find this resource:

          13. Schwartz GE. God, synchronicity, and post-materialist psychology. I: Proof-of-concept real-life evidence. Spir Clin Pract 2014;1(2):153–162.Find this resource:

          14. Schwartz GE. God, synchronicity, and post-materialist psychology. II: Replication and extension of real-life evidence. Spir Clin Pract 2015;2(1):86–95.Find this resource:

          15. Schwartz GE (2014). God, synchronicity, and post-materialist psychology III: Additional real-life evidence and the higher power healing hypothesis. Spir Clin Pract 2014;2(4):289–302.Find this resource:

          16. Schwartz GE.Synchronicity and the One Mind: Where Science and Spirit Meet. Vancouver, BC: Param Media; 2016.Find this resource:

            17. Schwartz GE.The G.O.D. Experiments: How Science Is Discovering God in Everything, Including Us. New York City, NY: Atria Books; 2007.Find this resource: